National Security

Nuclear F-35 Represents America’s Needed Deterrence

Of course nobody wants nuclear war, but the irony in that kind of conflict is that the credible threat of using nuclear weapons deters their use.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis discussed the need to provide additional nuclear capabilities. In written testimony to Congress, he wrote, “Modernizing our dual-capable fighter bombers with next-generation F-35 fighter aircraft will maintain the strength of NATO’s deterrence posture and our ability to forward deploy nuclear weapons, should the security situation demand it.” Adding nuclear weapons to the F-35 seems like a reckless escalation, but this is a good use of the fighter that meets a critical need using existing resources.

Of course nobody wants nuclear war, but the irony in that kind of conflict is that the credible threat of using nuclear weapons deters their use. This produced the often-mocked acronym “MAD,” but the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction of any side that used it prevented their use through far more stressful times than this.

That is why maintaining a successful deterrent is so important, and why neglecting it can lead to danger. For example, RAND recently reported that America will likely lose the next war because adversaries like China and Russia have upgraded key systems that give them an edge. OpsLens recently reported that Russia tested mobile ICBM launchers that point to critical flaws in NATO’s defense.

Mattis underscored this point by saying, “Nuclear delivery system development over the last eight years shows numerous advances by Russia, China, and North Korea versus the near absence of such activity by the United States, with competitors and adversaries developing 34 new systems as compared to only one for the US — the F-35 aircraft.”

F-35 weapons layout. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The F-35 offers higher speed, better maneuverability and operates at lower altitudes than America’s stealth bombers. With its long-range sensors and targeting technologies, the F-35 can also be used to identify and destroy mobile weapon launchers or other vital yet slightly smaller on-the-move targets, such as the Russian ICBM launchers previously discussed.  Unlike bombers, the F-35 might also be able to respond much more quickly, and could even use low-yield nuclear weapons in the event that new targets emerge.

Overall, this is part of Trump’s plan to strengthen America’s deterrence as outlined in his administration’s nuclear posture review. This includes low-yield nuclear missiles that can penetrate enemy air space and more funding in maintaining the current nuclear triad of land, sea, and air missiles. New systems include the Columbia Class submarines that will replace the rather impressive Ohio Class and the introduction of Minuteman III missiles. The recent budget was a good start in this regard, though long-term debt remains a concern every time military spending is increased.

It was the unilateral disbarment and neglect from the Obama administration that emboldened many bad actors around the world, and the nuclear F-35 is a great first step in better using an existing platform to fill a vital need.

It was the unilateral disbarment and neglect from the Obama administration that emboldened many bad actors around the world, and the nuclear F-35 is a great first step in better using an existing platform to fill a vital need.

The Trump- and Mattis-led nuclear posture, upgrades, and new use of the F-35 prompted hand-wringing from the usual critics of Trump. They claim this is a dangerous and reckless escalation of force around the world. While there is some danger of escalating, establishing proper deterrence through key upgrades is the best antidote to threats from aggressive Russia and China.

Ironically enough, it was the unilateral disbarment and neglect from the Obama administration that emboldened many bad actors around the world, and the nuclear F-35 is a great first step in better using an existing platform to fill a vital need.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Morgan Deane

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book Decisive Battles in Chinese history, as well as Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

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