“‘If a Russia … ever was to see an F-35 inside its airspace,' we would love to send Chief of Staff of the [U.S. Air Force] Gen. David L. Goldfein [a] ‘message with two words’ — ‘remember Vietnam’
“ ‘An F-35 will never be alone,' ” the Russian Embassy in the U.S. tweeted Friday.
The U.S. Air Force flew roughly 5 million sorties over South Vietnam, North Vietnam, northern and southern Laos, and Cambodia, during which it lost 1,737 aircraft to hostilities, according to the Air Force History and Museums Program.
The Russian message was accompanied by a short video of surface-to-air missiles impacting airborne targets — which brought Twitter users to draw parallels between those images and the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
MH17, a passenger airliner, was brought down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The Dutch Safety Board’s investigation of the incident concluded that the aircraft was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels and supplied from the Russian Federation.
The Russian Embassy tweet was a response to comments Goldfein made at the Brookings Institution Tuesday: “If a China or a Russia or another adversary on the globe ever were to see an F-35 inside their airspace ... I would love to send them all a message with two words: ‘We’re here.' ”
“If they ever do see an F-35, which is highly unlikely, they will never be alone," Goldfein added. "It will be part of a penetrating joint team.”
Goldfein made the comments after explaining the key role the F-35 is expected to play as a “quarterback of the joint team" that is able to call audibles on the battlefield, deciding what to do at the last second after seeing all possible options and complications.
The coordination role will be unlike any past aircraft, as the F-35 will be able to collect and fuse data without the pilot’s guidance and at an unprecedented rate.
“When we talk about fifth-generation, stealth is actually only a small part of that. … It’s about information fusion," he said.
During the Brookings event, Goldfein also promoted the F-35′s enhanced survivability in the advanced threat environments that peer-level adversaries like China and Russia would be able to field.
Goldfein’s comments came after a successful F-35 performance at Red Flag-Nellis, where it faced a mock adversary air force, surface-to-air threats, and space and cyber warfare.
“One of the jet’s greatest assets is to see things that others can’t, take all the information it’s gathering from the sensors and present them to the pilot,” 1st Lt. Landon Moores, an F-35A Lightning II pilot with the 388th Fighter Wing, said in an Air Force news release.
“One of our biggest jobs is learning how to process and prioritize that. For the more experienced pilots it seems like it is second nature," Moores added. "If we don’t, it’s not like we’re getting killed (in the F-35), but we could be doing more killing.”
Russia has also developed a fifth-generation fighter, known as the Sukhoi Su-57. Like the F-35, the Su-57 is designed to overcome an adversary’s naval and air defenses in order to prosecute targets.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.