The F-35 has a secret weapon that no country can touch.

As the F-35 takes hold in the US and allied military services, the Pentagon plans to use the aircraft for at least another 45 years. This is due to its proven ability to incorporate improvements to detection, computing, weapon launching, and targeting capabilities with software updates.

It is likely that this process will take place much more quickly and that it will no longer be necessary to separate software increments, or “drops,” by years.

The F-35 is an upgrades machine.

This means that the Air Force’s upcoming sixth-generation aircraft, which has just taken to the air, will likely complement and operate alongside the F-35 for many decades. The Air Force plans to purchase more than 1,700 F-35s and use them well into the 2070s through continued modernizations.

Many of the most advanced technologies are expected to be software-dependent, computer-based, or related to advanced sensing and artificial intelligence, allowing an aircraft like the F-35 to advance in performance without the need for reconfiguration. of the fuselage. The F-35 was designed by Lockheed’s engineers with upgrades in mind, so the plane can continue to be improved for years to come.

As sophisticated computer systems can collect, evaluate, organize, and deliver clear, integrated data to pilots, the F-35’s sensor fusion already incorporates the earliest iterations of artificial intelligence. This type of technical infrastructure could accommodate new sensors and weapon configurations that do not yet exist.

lethal weapons

The lethality of weapons and guidance systems can be improved with software, as we have already seen with the F-35 and F-22. In addition, engine upgrades that decrease heat emissions or increase propulsion and handling are also entirely possible.

This means that the F-22 and F-35 are likely to remain useful for military purposes in the long run. The F-35 will be used by the Air Force until 2070, and the F-22 will be used until 2060.

New network technologies, such as radios capable of linking the F-22 and F-35 in stealth mode and LINK 16 two-way connectivity between the two platforms, suggest secure interoperability between the fifth and sixth-generation fighters. This technological scenario augurs a significant expansion of the possibilities of tactical warfare.

In this context, it is useful to remember that China’s military modernization was the subject of a 70-page 2014 US-China Economic and Security Review chapter. The investigation found a number of interesting things, including that the Chinese have developed mobile ICBM launchers that can carry up to ten RVs.

These weapons, of course, present important new threats. The more RVs approach an objective, the more difficult it will be to defend them. With this in mind, an F-35 could bring the ability to use stealth, speed, and maneuverability to operate above heavily defended interior zones to find, pursue, and destroy mobile launchers.

lethality and performance

According to weapon designers, the F-35’s well-known capacity to greatly enhance its lethality and performance through software upgrades is a key area of emphasis for the aircraft’s development. Software improvements for the F-35 have been implemented over many years.

Each new software integration has expanded the aircraft’s weapons and detection capabilities, so this trend will likely continue. 

The 2060 F-35 could have more or less the same stealthy external configuration it has now and yet be powered by an entirely new generation of mission, detection, computing, and weapon systems.