The 500th aircraft delivery, the 250k cumulative flight hours flown, and the 1000th trained pilots are going to be the next program milestones for early 2020 . The Australians will be the next major user to declare IOC in 2020.
vishvak wrote:If f-35 is going to be replacement of f-16 then surely that's a new world in terms of stealth warfare - which is what counts a most for controlling air warfare. Hopefully we can get s-400 pronto.
As much (or more) than stealth is the ability of the aircraft to sense using a wide range of active and passive systems, and to be able to communicate and share raw sensor data (and not just overlays) with other F-35's and other aircraft with high bandwidth discrete data-links and long range non LPI data-links. This will be more of a value add especially with future weapons (some currently in the works like SIAW and JATM) that can make use of that data.
Similarly, this, and the fusion engine, changes how one views sensor growth and evolution. You no longer need the largest, most expensive, and most power hungry radar to maintain an edge or to enhance the lethality and reach of your BVRAAM. Individual sensors now contribute to your detection and targeting probabilities and allow you to approach sensor development in a collective fashion and get more SWAP-C optimized solutions earlier which collectively have the same effect as much larger capability leaps in individual traditional sensors which take longer, cost more, and require more deeper modernization which is often reserved for the mid-life upgrade. This is important because detecting, tracking, and targeting very high end 5th and 6th generation aircraft, and future IADS (not the giant "complexes" of today but those that will be much lighter, smaller and easier to hide, and rely on a whole host of active and passive remote sensors) will be a team effort, beyond the capabilities of just one aircraft.
Of course VLO airframe is the underlying enabler as without VLO you won't be able to use those sensors, the sensor fusion optimally in an offensive fashion like you can with VLO and the freedom and survivability that it provides. Having just a VLO airframe only allows you to pin point certain targets and hold them at risk (like what the F-117 did). When that VLO capability is paired with deep connectivity at individual sensor-level raw-data transfer, and a large sensor footprint on every aircraft this really allows a pilot on a strike sortie, SEAD or an O/DCA mission to be able to develop SA and bring to bear effects via multiple ways including in the EW and cyber realm.
The Israeli official summed it up nicely a couple of years ago when they received their aircraft -
With all that is on the table, Israel is happy. “This jet brings us everything we’ve dreamed of doing, in one package,” said another senior air force source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s all concentrated on one table for us. As we all know, the F-35 can reach places in a way that others can’t. But in addition, it integrates high-level operational capabilities as well as the ability to read and analyze a battle map. The earlier, fourth-generation jets are excellent at maneuvering and activating sophisticated weapons systems, but they are not able to collect intelligence and independently analyze battle movement. The F-35 can do all this by itself in real time, with only one pilot sitting in the cockpit. We have never had such an operational capability until today. Until now, attack aircraft were operated independently of air support aircraft. The former waited to receive analysis of the battle picture that came from the latter. But in the F-35, everything is on the same platform, and this is no less than amazing. When you connect that to several aircraft, you receive strategic capability for the State of Israel.” https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/origin ... z69i2TNfFm
^ Do note the information and single pilot comment. The debate of whether 2 or 4 in the cockpit are better than 2 or 1 will live on forever..but on the F-35, the fusion-engine and autonomous connectivity and raw-data sharing is your second digital man in the seat..EODAS+fusion engine also tracks blue and red bogies in a furball. That is akin to constantly having multiple sets of eyeballs covering dozens of aircraft constantly during dynamic maneuvers..