Air Force Describes Jets’ Role in New War
At a time when war with China is talked about as a future possibility, the deputy director for air and cyberspace operations at Pacific Air Forces gave a rare look at how advanced fifth-generation aircraft -- the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II among them -- could lead the air campaign in a conflict in the region.
Col. Max Marosko, in an article for the Mitchell Institute this month, offered up a war scenario 10 years from now in which several squadrons of the aircraft rapidly deploy and disperse to numerous military and civilian airfields across the Pacific, thwarting an enemy trying to use ballistic or cruise missiles against the forward-deployed aircraft.
Heavy radar and communications jamming confront U.S. and coalition forces, but fifth-generation aircraft leverage their advanced sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft.
As operations continue, it becomes apparent that stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters, as well as B-2 and B-21 bombers, are the only aircraft capable of operating over contested territory due to the large number of adversary mobile surface-to-air missile systems deployed.
"Fifth generation fighters achieve most of the adversary air-to-air kills, since older fighters find themselves vulnerable to the long reach and lethality of advanced SAMs, keeping these fighters at a distance from the main fight," Marosko wrote.
Marosko characterizes fifth-generation aircraft as those capable of dealing with the "most capable current air and ground threats," usually with stealth and advanced radar jamming and avionics.
The Pacific Air Forces officer, an F-22 pilot, co-authored the report, titled "Fifth Generation Air Combat: Maintaining the Joint Force Advantage," with Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, who directs the Air Force F-35 integration office at the Pentagon.
The paper was written "to provide joint and combined military commanders, allies and partners, and U.S. government leaders a foundational-level understanding of proposed concept of employment requirements for integrating fifth generation air capabilities," Capt. Tania Bryan, a Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman, said Friday in an email.
Pacific Air Forces, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, will serve as a focal point for integrating fifth-generation air capabilities in the Pacific through not only engagements and exercises, but also operational concepts and plans, Bryan said.
She added that the paper "does not speak to conflict with any particular country."
Marosko said in the same email, "As we move toward employing and deploying the F-35 throughout the Pacific, we need to start thinking about the interoperability of this air asset not only within U.S. military services, but with our allies and partners who will also be receiving fifth generation aircraft in the near future."
The air combat vignette illustrates "what a scenario could look like as we bolster the interoperability of our military forces with key partners and allies to ensure security and stability throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific," he said.
Although China isn't mentioned by name -- except in one footnote in the article -- increasing tensions with the rising Asian power form the backdrop for one possible future outcome.