Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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F-35 Pilots will Quickly Wipe-out the PLA Naval Air Force in a South China Sea War

Turkey shooters

(Photo : USMC) U.S. Marines F-35B stealth fighters.

Emboldened by combat simulations where they achieved kills ratios as high as 24-0 in their favor, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter can be expected to wipe-out the entire fighter force of the People's Liberation Army, Naval Air Force (PLANAF) in their first few air battles over the South China Sea.

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The reason: PLANAF only has a total of 45 fourth generation fighter jets to throw at the F-35s.

Of this paltry total, 21 are carrier-borne Shenyang J-15 multi-role fighters aboard the CNS Liaoning (CV-16), China's only aircraft carrier, while 24 are Sukhoi Su-30MKK multi-role fighters operated by the 10th Fighter Regiment of the 4th Division based at the Feidong Air Base in Zhejiang Province bordering the East China Sea.

PLANAF also operates 120 Xian JH-7 fighter bombers optimized for dropping bombs and firing missiles at land targets and enemy warships. The JH-7, however, is not expected to engage in combat against the F-35 that is completely superior in this domain.

PLANAF might also count on aid from the fighter force of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), but only a few PLAAF pilots are known to have been trained in over water combat while their fighters are not optimized for aerial combats over oceans.

Useful allies to PLANAF will be PLAAF's 24 Su-35MKKs; the Shenyang J-11 multi-role fighter (of which PLAAF has 48 aircraft) and the Chengdu J-10 multi-role fighter (24 in service with PLAAF).

The combined fighter force of PLANAF and PLAAF comes to some 150 fourth generation jets, none of which are a match for the F-35 based on the results of a wide range of simulated air combats conducted over the years by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Confidence in the ability of the F-35 to dominate the Chinese remains high among the U.S. fighter pilots.

Their confidence stems from the overwhelming victories in simulated aerial combats against U.S. fourth generation fighters such as the F-15 Eagle, and the testimonies of F-35 pilots surprised at the ease with which they racked up kills against their opponents.

The "kill ratio" in these air-to-air combats ranged from 24-0 to 8-0 for the F-35, depending on the number of fighters involved.

In Asia, the Pentagon deployed the U.S. military's first operational F-35s to Japan in December 2016 as tensions with China over the South China Sea continue to simmer.

It said 10 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters of the Marines will move permanently to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan.

The F-35B is a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the jet. It can also take-off and land vertically like a helicopter.

"I can't wait to get the airplane out to the Pacific," said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps last year.

"It's tailor-made for that part of the world with its fifth generation capability and its expeditionary capabilities to land on a small ship or strip, and flow back and forth between those."

Gen. Davis said the Marines' F-35s are ready for combat now if needed. He revealed the F-35s are doing a lot better in combat exercises than expected, achieving kill ratios of 24 to zero in mock aerial combats against other jets, and surviving every sort of simulated enemy attack.

"It is like watching a velociraptor going through. Everything in its path is killed," he said.

Lt. Gen. Tod Daniel Wolters, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said that for Russian pilots, fighting against the F-35 would be something like death insurance.

"What we are perfectly convinced of is the fact that when we do bring fifth-generation assets into the European region it is something that certainly serves as a deterrent," said Gen. Wolters.

"It forces the Russians to take a look at what we are doing and to realize that if they had to embrace us they might be in a position where they had to jump into a boxing ring and fight an invisible Muhammad Ali."

He noted that U.S. observations of Russian activities in the area of command and control reveal the Russians "are extremely challenged. So our sense is, from a fifth generation standpoint that we would have great success."

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