I read the AOL Breaking Defense article/interview with RADM Manazir with great interest. The fawning over what the Marine Corps will bring with the Amphibious fleet wasn't interesting. What caught my interest was his description of what the F-35 will bring. Check this out...
“We are doing what Bayesian theory talks about, namely we are providing more and more information to get closer to the truth in targeting or combat situation. One can reduce that fog of war by increased understanding of what actual truth is; [then] you’re going to have better effects,” said Manazir. “This is why the technology that the F-35 brings to the fight is so crucial.”And that's the rub ladies and gents.
“With the fifth generation aircraft and their sensors and fused data, you can cover a much greater swath of combat space than with legacy aircraft, and as we sort through how to integrate unmanned systems with F-35s, we will be able in a single operational unit to cover significant combat space,” Manazir said. “You are looking at exponential growth in coverage capabilities to inform the process of generating the combat effects, which you want in that extended battlespace, and the growth in the ability to generate better target information will allow us to execute strikes within our rules of engagement.”
“With Block 3F software in the airplane, we will have data fusion where you transform data information to knowledge enabling greater wisdom about the combat situation,” he continued. “The processing machines in the F-35 provide enough of the fusion so that the pilot can now add his piece to the effort. This enables the ships to enhance their ability to operate in the networks and to engage with the air fleet in dynamic targeting at much greater distance.”
We've missed the forest for the trees. The US Navy's biggest boosters of the F-35 aren't talking about it as a warplane. They aren't talking strike or fleet defense.
They're talking about a stealthy ISR platform...
In that role the X-47 will perform the same role....only better than the F-35 ever could. Not only will its sensor be better, but it will be longer ranged and provide more persistence for the fleet.
Why I haven't hit on this earlier is beyond me, but there you have it. But the bigger thing is that the USAF and Marine Corps are doing the same thing. They aren't talking about the airplane as a fighter, deep strike/interdiction platform or as a close support airplane.
They're talking about it performing as a stealthy, manned UAV (you get the point don't be smart asses) type airplane.
So the question now becomes simple and stark for our allies. If the F-35's biggest and probably only strength is as a sensor node, then how will it perform for those nations that do need strikers, close air support, fleet defense or air superiority airplanes?