Everybody Gets a Piece

Because the F-35 is stealthy and sharing information continuously with the network, it offers operators the capability to “find unlocated surface-to-air threats” in a way that fourth-generation aircraft can’t. Lt. Col. Scott Gunn, an Air Force F-35A pilot, told attendees at an AFA Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill that fourth-generation fighters “can’t fly close enough” to enemy air defenses to find those that are mobile and lying in wait, but can dominate quickly because of their ability to share information instantly with other parts of the network—and particularly with other F-35s. “I may have just one piece of the puzzle,” Gunn said, “but if every F-35 has one piece of the puzzle, together we can solve it.” The event was a panel discussion on the value of fifth-generation combat aircraft, such as the F-35, F-22, and B-21. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, an F-35B pilot, said the old maxim about, “Speed is life, more is better,” has given way to, “Information is life, more is better.” “If you were to ask pilots whether they’d prefer speed … or information, 100 percent of pilots will say ‘information,’ every time,” Berke said. He added that the “presence” of a fifth-gen aircraft in a fleet “increases information exponentially” because it can go places where fourth gen aircraft “simply cannot go,” he said.