Why Russia, Iran and China Should Fear the U.S. Marine’s F-35 Stealth Fighter

F-35. Image: Creative Commons/Flickr.

F-35. Image: Creative Commons/Flickr.

By David Axe September 12, 2016

The U.S. Marine Corps said it would soon begin testing its F-35B stealth fighters with the U.S. Navy’s new fire-control network.

If the testing leads to operational use, the Marines’ F-35s could function essentially as fast, armed, radar-evading surrogates for the Navy’s E-2 radar planes — extending the detection and engagement range of a variety of munitions.

Marine Corps headquarters slipped its announcement of the testing into a Sept. 1 update on F-35B testing. The Corps declared its first F-35B squadron combat-ready in July 2015, but operational testing of the stealthy warplane continues.

The F-35B detachment of Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron 1 at Edwards Air Force Base in California recently completed test-firings of the AIM-120 air-to-air missile.

Next up, according to Marine Corps headquarters — tests of the F-35B’s compatibility with the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair network, or NIFC-CA. The announcement did not say when the NIFC-CA testing would take place, but the Navy had previously stated that it would test F-35s with NIFC-CA in September 2016 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

That test would involve F-35s detecting targets for a land-based battery of SM-6 surface-to-air missiles. It’s not clear if the Marines are joining the Navy’s F-35-NIFC-CA testing or conducting separate trials on their own.

Poorly understood outside of naval circles, NIFC-CA is arguably one of the most important developments in the U.S. military. NIFC-CA is, in essence, a network architecture that combines several different sensors, datalinks and munitions.

NIFC-CA allows, say, an aircraft to pass targeting data to a warship armed with SM-6 missiles. The SM-6 — a 22-foot-long weapon that mates a two-stage rocket booster with the seeker head of an AIM-120. The Navy hasn’t released the SM-6’s maximum range, but it could be as great as 250 miles. The sailing branch did claim that one 2014 at-sea test of the SM-6 resulted in the longest-range surface-to-air engagement in history.

In any event, the SM-6 clearly can “shoot” farther than a warship’s sensors can “see.” But if an aircraft flying far ahead of the ship can relay its own targeting tracks, it can help the SM-6 to strike at its farther-possible range.

NIFC-CA began entering frontline service in 2013. At present, the standard application of NIFC-CA combines SM-6-armed destroyers with Navy E-2D radar-early-warning planes. But there are only a handful of E-2Ds in service. The Navy wants to add more aircraft and munition types, including surface-to-surface weapons, to the NIFC-CA architecture — and clearly the Marines want in, too.

If the upcoming F-35B-NIFC-CA testing proves fruitful, it’s possible that, in future wars, F-35Bs flying from Navy assault ships or even from British aircraft carriers or land bases, could stealthily penetrate enemy air defenses, detect enemy ships, planes and even ground forces and cue U.S. warships to lob far-flying missiles over the horizon at the targets.

The expansion of the NIFC-CA network has reassured U.S. military leaders that American naval forces should be able to defeat so-called “anti-access area-denial” systems — radars, jet fighters, ballistic missiles, etc. — that China, Russia and Iran are creating in order to keep U.S. forces away from their borders.

Asked in August 2016 whether the Navy’s aircraft carriers could safely operate inside enemy anti-access umbrellas, Adm. John Richardson was unequivocal. “Yes,” Richardson said. Adding the Marines’ F-35Bs to the Navy’s fire-control network should only boost his confidence.

Source: National Interest “Why Russia, Iran and China Should Fear the U.S. Marine’s F-35 Stealth Fighter”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


5 Comments on “Why Russia, Iran and China Should Fear the U.S. Marine’s F-35 Stealth Fighter”

  1. Joseph says:

    Yes, why Russia Iran and China should fear the US marines F-35 stealth fighter? It will soon has fire control system, so? All operational fighter jet should have fire control systems. It is not really something to be feared. What important for F-35 is not fire control system, but more powerful engines. That amateur admiral John Richardson should know that the area that his navy’s aircraft carrier could operate safely inside enemy’s anti-access umbrella would be very very very small given the very very very short range of F-35. And why would that fire-control network boost his confidence? That thing is useless with the limited range of the F-35Bs. Is he going to have his carrier as close as possible and lwt those F-35Bs to fire their weapon loads while still on deck of the carrier?


    • Indian ocean for India says:

      Your clearly do not understand the importance of the F-35.Let me help you out: In the case of the F-35B it can operate from S/VTOL carriers. This increases the flexibility of the aircraft as you do not need a large carrier as the base of operations. The British learned about this when Harriers based on the container ship Atlantic Conveyor in the Falklands War were able to fly combat missions from her deck. Flexibilty .Also just as important is that networked warfare means that as long as there is a friendly ship nearby, F-35 does not need to worry about expending its limited supply of ordnance and having to return to base. F-35 will never be out of ammo as it can guide weapons fired from other ships and aircraft to hostile targets. F-35 can take data from the powerful radar of a E-2D Hawkeye and engage hostile aircraft and ships without ever turning its own radar on. The enemy will never know that he has been targeted and is being tracked. Its called Cooperative Engagement and its a breakthrough. It was formerly called data fusion. More here:


      China has nothing like this.


      • chankaiyee2 says:

        Thank you for providing information about F-35, but the website provided by you cannot be accessed so that I doubt the accuracy of your information.

        As for your statement “China has nothing like this”. How do you know? Please prove that.


      • Fu Man-Chu says:

        There are practical questions raised by the concept put forwarded? How powerful are the computer systems on board the planes and the ships to enable it to transfer data via satellite signals? How fast is the transmissions – uploading or downloading? What about the power source for the computer systems? How miniaturized are they to fit into a plane in particular? How long can the power source last without recharge? How much memory involved?

        Concepts are nice but the trick is to convert these to reality. If the F-35 and and 22 are any indication, the software itself is a mess and the coding overly huge for even any man to handle. Ambition is fine. The question is do you have the ability to engineer it?

        Two turkeys says, doubtful.


      • Joseph says:

        Importance? What’s the importance of the plane that can’t fly far? Perhaps they have different news in India, but there is no VTOL F-35. Even the STOL F-35B has a very very very short range. Yes, so smart indeed, to solve the short range problem of F-35, the US navy decided to make it ‘surveillance’, linking it with ship Aegis system on networked warfare to fire from nearby navy ships. This way the F-35 does not have to carry ordnance and have longer range. This is the superior networked warfare strategy that would render Chinese strategy obsolete? Is it very clever or very dumb? A drone could do that a lot cheaper and a lot less risk. But at least it is better than having those grounded birds to fire from the deck of their carriers.