Fifth Generation Air Combat – how best to use the F35 and F22

A ten page paper describes how best to use the F35 and F22 in a hypothetical all our war with China in 2026

They lay out the characteristics and requirements of fifth generation aircraft systems, and describe how these assets are leveraged in present and future joint and combined warfare.

F35 just becoming operational so the scenario where the F35 and F22 make the difference in future war is propoganda to justify the $1 trillion F35 program

The Air Force is expected between August and December to declare its first squadron of F-35s ready for war. That means a regional military commander could request those planes for combat. The Marines declared its F-35s ready for war last year, but they have not been used in the air campaign against ISIS, Afghanistan and in Africa, all areas where the military has bombed enemy strongholds in recent years.

Five basic concepts are highlighted, as focus areas for commanders and others, to ensure an adequate understanding of the support structure these aircraft require.

  1. preparations,
  2. mission data elements,
  3. deployment,
  4. employment,
  5. as well as logistics and sustainment.

The F-22 Raptor has now operated in the combat air force for over a decade, and played a key role in the kickoff of Operation Inherent Resolve over Syria in September 2014, and subsequent operations.

In addition to its speed, maneuverability, and stealth capabilities, commanders have discovered the Raptor brings immense situational awareness capabilities by utilizing its sensors in ways few could have imagined in the program’s infancy over three decades ago. The F-22’s ability to perform strikes, conduct escort operations, collect and manage information, pass taskings in real time, and provide dynamic targeting information “has even exceeded our expectations,” said Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle in February 2015.

The F-22 has the ability to make every asset it works with better, as it connects and leverages the entirety of a strike package in ways older combat aircraft could not do.

There are many characteristics of fifth generation aircraft that separate them from older aircraft. These include, primarily, multi-spectral low observable (LO) design features (such as radar, infrared sensors, and visual situational awareness tools), along with self-protection and radar jamming capabilities that delay or deny enemy systems the ability to detect, track, and engage the aircraft. These aircraft also feature integrated avionics, which autonomously fuse and prioritize the aircraft’s multi-spectral sensors and off board data, providing an accurate real-time operations picture for the pilot, and the ability to download data for post-mission analysis. This is a present-day example of “man-machine teaming.” Advanced on-board diagnostics help vital monitoring of the aircraft’s health, accurately reporting faults as they occur, increasing overall system performance and reliability.

Resilient communications, navigation, and identification tools and techniques are also crucial aspects of fifth generation aircraft, designed to counter enemy attempts to jam, deny, or confuse these vital capabilities.

To realize the potential of fifth generation aircraft in modern joint operations, fifth generation communities in the USAF must make several improvements.

1. units must improve deployment reaction time and speed, as windows of opportunity to penetrate IADS or to destroy high value targets may be fleeting.
2. Fifth generation aircraft units must work diligently to minimize the required amount of forward-deployed equipment and personnel, and fully understand the logistics, sustainment, and communications limitations at a deployed location.
3. the Air Force must work to increase flexible basing options available for fifth generation aircraft (such as increasing the
number of airfields the Air Force can deploy to), and build a fuller understanding of the impact these options will have on operations, maintenance, and command and control in dispersed locations
4. fifth generation aircraft sustainment and support systems must be hardened with sufficient redundancy to ensure resilience under attack. This hardening must be multi-domain, and the sustainment and support systems must be able to survive and operate in the face of both kinetic and cyber attack

Scenario 2026: Seizing The Advantage

In one of these potential crises, the year is now 2026. The USAF now fields a mixed force of legacy and fifth generation aircraft. In response to rising tensions in a key region abroad, continental US (CONUS) based aircraft are mobilized along with other assets. Adversary-sponsored cyber attacks immediately attempt to target unclassified computer systems supporting fifth generation aircraft deployment, including the F-35’s Autonomic Logistic Information System (or ALIS), but are successfully thwarted by a combination of cyber defense and backup capabilities.

While CONUS-based fifth generation aircraft gear up for future combat missions,several squadrons of fifth generation aircraft rapidly deploy and disperse to numerous military and civilian airfields, effectively avoiding concentrating no more than a single squadron at any one location. Consequently adversary planners and targeteers are unable to effectively use ballistic or cruise missile attacks to score a pre-emptive “knock-out” blow against forward deployed aircraft, and fifth generation missions continue with little impact. Though some expeditionary airfields have navigation or air traffic control facilities, by 2026 F-35 and F-22 pilots are now adept at conducting autonomous all-weather operations

During the opening days, fighting focuses on the battle for air superiority as aircraft from both sides clash over contested territory. Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multispectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures. Though legacy aircraft operate at a distance from the most dangerous threats, they provide critically important layered defense in depth for ongoing operations.

During the initial days of the conflict, F-35s occasionally return to their bases—only to discover several are heavily damaged from enemy missile attacks. Executing contingency plans, they divert to a nearby civilian airfield and use pilot swapout procedures to reposition aircraft to another F-35 operating location, allowing these assets to continue fighting despite heavy airfield attacks.

As operations continue, it becomes apparent stealth aircraft like the F-22, F-35, B-2 and B-21 are the only aircraft capable of operating over the contested territory in the conflict due to the large number of adversary mobile advanced Surface to Air Missile systems (SAMs) deployed.

The F22s and F35 then disable the missiles and air superiority is achieved.

SOURCES – Mitchell Forum, Defense One