By Bijan Razzaghi
The US Marine Corps F-35Bs will likely be deploying to the South West Asia theater of operations. According to CENTCOM 6 F-35Bs will be deployed on the USS Wasp or Essex. The aircraft will be responsible for Close Air Support, Air Interdiction and CAP.
Currently US Forces are engaged in Operations in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In Syria the airspace remains contested as Syrian Air Force Mig’s and Su’s pose a threat to coalition ground forces. In addition pro assad forces have conducted surprise attack’s on coalition forces using conventional weapons and have deployed air defense systems such as the Pantsir S-1. This makes the F-35B better suited for this A2AD environment compared to 4th generation platforms.
Currently the only coalition 5th generation platforms deployed in Syria are F-22A Raptors, the F-35B offers the same low observable capabilities and situational awareness due to sensor fusion combining RWR, Radar and ECM systems together. The F-35 also has a robust ground attack capability being able to designate and engage targets with its EOTS ( Electrical Optical Targeting System). These factors allow for less risk when conducting air support for US advisors and Special Operations Forces.
In addition to Syrian Aircraft Russia has also deployed a wide array of fighter aircraft including the Su-35, Su-30 and Mig-29. Fifth generation Su-57s have also been observed. These aircraft have had unsafe encounters with 4th generation F-16s and F-15Es in the past.It is unclear when the F-35Bs will be deployed but it is likely to be this year.