(Washington, D.C.) The Pentagon is sending more than 50 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Europe over the next few years to deter Russia and help NATO prepare for an entirely new kind of warfare.
“By the time our planes get there, here will be 100-plus F-35s there with our European partners,” Gen. James Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command, told reporters at a recent Air Force Association Conference. “We will be falling in on our European partners who already have their F-35s.”
Emphasizing that the arriving U.S. F-35s will “train and operate” together with European allies, Holmes said the move was “important to our ability to compete and deter in Europe.”
Bringing F-35s to the European continent introduces a range of new attack options for U.S. and NATO forces seeking to prevent potential Russian advances; it brings 5th Generation stealth, which includes targeting sensors with never-before-seen range, new air-to-air weapons and a drone-like ability to surveil and target areas of interest. U.S. and allied F-35s all have a common data link which enables dispersed, yet-networked attack options. In a tactical sense, it seems that a high-speed F-35, fortified by long-range sensors and targeting technologies, might be well positioned to identify and destroy mobile weapons launchers or other vital, yet slightly smaller on-the-move
"Once the F-35 gets there you will see it be moved around and used. It will operate with our allies reassure them and do some deterrence as well," Col. William Marshall, 48th Fighter Wing Commander, told reporters at AFA. The arriving F-35s will work through U.S. Air Force Europe.
The weapons, ISR technologoy and multi-role functions of the F-35 potentially provide a wide range of attack options should that be necessary in the region. The F-35 has completed a series of weapons separation tests for emerging weapons and is currently able to be armed with the AIM-9X, AIM-120, AIM-132, GBU-12, JDAM, JSOW, SDB-1 and the Paveway IV, Lockheed Martin data states. The F-35 is configured to carry more than 3500 pounds of ordnance in stealth mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested.
As part of this equation, an F-35 might also increasingly be called upon to function as a key element of US nuclear deterrence strategy; in recent years, F-35s deployed to the Pacific theater to participate in military exercises over the Korean Peninsula.