Pilots, maintainers and support personnel from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings and 12 F-35A Lightning II jets will travel to Kadena Air Base for six months as part of the U.S.’s ongoing security presence in the area, known as a theater security package. This is the second deployment of the F-35As stationed at Hill AFB, following a short show of force in RAF Lakenheath earlier this year.
The F35's come from the 34th Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Their commanderLt Col George Watkins, had this to say about the deployment to RAF Lakenheath:
"It's teamwork between us and the local population of the base here, as they're standing up their own F-35 squadrons here [...] so they can get some lesson's learned"
The deployment was planned months in advance according to the statement released by the Department of Defense, but the timing does come as international politics throughout the entire world are tense.
Consider the following questions:
- How does a NATO country, like Belgium or Spain, raise its defense spending rapidly over the short term (i.e. 4 years) without incurring the risk associated with research and development or costs associated with increased manpower?
- How does a businessman-turned-politician drive down the costs of a weapon's program whose costs are "out of control?"
- How does one make good on promises to "bring manufacturing jobs back home?" to appease Economic Security voters?
- How does an administration, in dire need of showing strength against a country who allegedly helped it get elected do so without leading to an accidental international incident?
The answer to all of these is through Foreign Military Sales; the one thing that the U.S. government has been decidedly good at over the last several decades. Currently, the most prolific export of the U.S. military sale market is the F-35 and it has been catapulted into the limelight as a cornerstone in the next Cold War.
You have no doubt heard of the F-35 or F-22 and wondered why these aircraft are so damn expensive, and why they are so controversial. I can't seek to answer those questions for you, but I can help to explain the academics behind fifth generation aircraft and their low observable (or "stealth") technology.
Low observable technology is important for several reasons, not least of which is the simple fact that you cannot shoot what you do not know exists. Hollywood movies like to highlight the importance of "heat seeking missiles" (professionally known as "infrared (IR) missiles"), but most modern warfare is conducted now beyond visual range and relies heavily on radar guided missiles. These are an impressive jump in technology, but they do rely heavily on your ability to detect the target on your radar.
More likely than not, the existence of fifth generation aircraft is signaling the start of a new arms race in which the four major super powers (European Union, United States, Russia, and China) are modernizing their air forces to ensure their pilots are able to fly longer and strike further against any adversary they may encounter. This recent push to modernize is likely an attempt for those powers to retain their competitive edge in a global deterrent based strategy similar to that of the Cold War. However, unlike the Cold War, these weapons can be used and exported without fearing for their direct contribution to humanity's destruction