Just for the record, Air Force officials insist they have not been tasked to offer any options for a potential strike on Iran should that country remain intransigent against international demands to curtail its uranium enrichment program. However, one senior service official reports that Iran’s integrated air defense system could pose a challenge for US stealth aircraft, especially in areas where it is “quite dense.” Iran has some top-line, brand-new Russian-made double-digit surface-to-air missiles, plus several decades’ worth of older gear—which can still be a headache—and anti-aircraft artillery. The big problem is that much of the gear can be picked up and moved fairly quickly, which means a defense suppression campaign against Iran would be ever-changing. The official noted that in April 2003—a week after Operation Iraqi Freedom began—the Iraqis lobbed more than 200 missiles against coalition aircraft in one day. Even though many were unguided, the sheer volume slowed the pace of the air campaign.
Whether the F-35 fighter will get new engines from the Air Force’s cutting-edge Adaptive Engine Transition Program is a question that needs to be resolved at the Defense Department level, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers May 17—and he anticipates an answer in the 2024 budget.