The F-35 ‘Wlll Absolutely Thrive’ in the Most Militarized Region on the Planet
As tensions mount in the troubled waters of the South China Sea, US might is considered crucial, and a weapon considered well suited for the region is almost ready for deployment: the F-35 Lightning II.
"It will absolutely thrive in that environment," retired Air Force Col. John "JV" Venable told Business Insider.
At a cool $100 million per jet, Lockheed Martin's "jack-of-all-trades" aircraft is America's priciest weapons system, and its development has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense.
Since its inception, in 2001, the F-35 has experienced setbacks that include faulty ejection seats, software delays, and helmet display issues.
In July 2015, after cost overruns, design modifications, and serious testing, the Marine Corps became the first of the sister-service branches to declare the tri-service fighter ready for war.
A year and change later, the Air Force also declared their version of the fifth generation jet initial operational capability (IOC). Currently the US Navy variant, the F-35C, is slated to reach IOC by February 2019.
"Having three different types of fighters working for you in that environment [South China Sea] is also an extraordinary advantage," Venable, a fighter pilot and former commander of the celebrated Air Force Thunderbirds, told Business Insider.
With rival territorial claims by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China, the South China Sea — rich in natural resources and crisscrossed by shipping routes — is one of the most militarized areas on the planet.