UK F35s will take off from a road covered with aluminum mats

As part of its strategy to conduct distributed operations, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force [RAF] has articulated plans to showcase the feasibility of operating Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and Lockheed Martin F-35Bs from roads. This information was divulged by a high-ranking commander in a conversation with Aviation Week on the 13th of June.

British F-35 crashed due to one of the F135's air intake blank
Photo credit: UK MoD

Anticipations are mounting as demonstrations are projected to unfold in the imminent year, encompassing both Finland and the United Kingdom. This assertion was articulated by Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, the distinguished commander of the Royal Air Force’s air and space department, whilst he was ensconced in the peripheral proceedings of the esteemed Global Air and Space Chiefs Conference, located in the city of London. 

Within the ensuing months, the anticipated Typhoon demonstrations are set to unfurl on Finland’s highways, as reported by Smyth. Diverging from the practices of the UK and its NATO allies, Finland has established a routine of operating a fleet of Boeing F/A-18 Hornets from its extensive network of national highways. This unique approach provides an opportunity for the UK to efficiently utilize its existing infrastructure.

Development of operational strategies for the F-35B’s road deployment is currently ongoing, as stated by Smyth. It is anticipated that these operations will predominantly occur within the boundaries of the United Kingdom. The Royal Air Force [RAF] is in the process of formulating plans to establish aluminum AM-2 mats along a designated road stretch that could potentially reach up to 1,500 feet in length.

Not only Russian Su-27 can do it - the F-35 landed on a highway
Photo by James Deboer

The primary purpose of this strategic infrastructure is to facilitate short takeoffs and vertical landings by the F-35B, while concurrently ensuring the integrity of the underlying road structure is not compromised, Smyth further clarified. The two demonstrations under discussion form a segment of a broader initiative aimed at augmenting the realism and relevance of RAF training in the context of contemporary warfare.

It is commonplace for Nordic nations like Finland and Sweden to regularly rehearse the dispersion of their forces from primary operational bases. This practice is grounded in the assumption that, in the event of a Russian assault, the majority of static infrastructure would be incapacitated within a few hours of the onset of hostilities.

In the context of historical military strategy, it is noteworthy that NATO members employed distributed operating models during the Cold War era. However, the financial burden associated with this approach, encompassing the necessity for surplus parts and skilled maintenance personnel, induced numerous air forces to shift their focus. Consequently, they aimed to enhance the efficiency of their primary operating bases instead.

Bulgaria to Seek Proposals on New F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoons
Photo Credit: BAE System

With the escalating complexity of frontline aircraft like Typhoons and F-35Bs, it has been observed that the expenditures associated with distributed operations have experienced a parallel surge.

The purpose of these demonstrations, as articulated by Smyth, is to meticulously examine any potential vulnerabilities in the Royal Air Force’s [RAF’s] capacity to function effectively away from its primary bases for brief durations.

Smyth, addressing the assembly, articulated his strategy with a sense of gravity: “My philosophy centers around the idea that if one does not venture into the unknown, it remains impossible to discern where the pitfalls lie,” he proclaimed. “This is precisely the process that is currently underway.”

About RAF F-35

The RAF F-35B fighter is a highly advanced stealth aircraft that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing. It is designed to operate in a wide range of combat scenarios, including air-to-air combat, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions.

F-35I Adir is a 'monster', with its own frequency hopping EW system
Photo credit: IAF

The F-35B is equipped with advanced avionics and sensor systems, including a sophisticated radar system that can detect and track multiple targets at once. It also has a powerful engine that allows it to reach supersonic speeds and fly at high altitudes.

RAF F-35B characteristics

One of the key technical characteristics of the RAF F-35B fighter is its stealth capabilities. The aircraft is designed to be virtually invisible to radar, making it extremely difficult for enemy forces to detect and track. This allows the F-35B to operate in hostile environments with a high degree of safety and effectiveness.

In addition, the aircraft is equipped with advanced weapons systems, including air-to-air missiles, precision-guided bombs, and a 25mm cannon. These weapons can be used to engage a wide range of targets, from enemy aircraft to ground-based defenses.

The RAF F-35B fighter has a number of combat possibilities that make it a highly versatile and effective weapon system. For example, its stealth capabilities allow it to operate in contested airspace without being detected, giving it a significant advantage over other aircraft.

In Russia: Copied Soviet Yak-141's unit damaged the F-35 in Texas
Photo credit: Flickr / Samuel King Jr.

It can also be used to conduct precision strikes against enemy targets, using its advanced weapons systems to take out key infrastructure and military assets. In addition, the F-35B can be used for reconnaissance missions, gathering intelligence on enemy forces and providing valuable information to ground-based commanders. Overall, the RAF F-35B fighter is a highly advanced and capable aircraft that is well-suited to a wide range of combat scenarios.

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