The Russian Embassy in the United States has a history of tweeting out threatening, bellicose, and frankly weird shit. But this one, threatening the F-35 with propaganda videos about Vietnam, is certainly up there.
There’s a lot to unpack here. The tweet was apparently inspired by a speech that United States Air Force chief General David Goldfein gave to a big think tank, the Brookings Institution, earlier this week, which Russian state English-language propaganda outlet Sputnik highlighted (sort of, maybe, if you go on their website it’s a little unclear what’s a blockquote and what’s just randomly bolded words, the emphasis is all Sputnik’s):
“If a China or a Russia or another adversary on the globe ever were to see an F-35 inside their airspace,” Goldfein said, “I would love to send them all messages with two words — ‘we’re here.’”
“It’s not ‘I’m here,’” he said. “An F-35 will never be alone.”
Air Force Magazine notes that Goldfein “went out of his way to mention the F-35 in his remarks,” calling the plane the “quarterback” of an air campaign, able to “call audibles in real time.” Its stealthy design, which makes it very difficult to see and identify on radar, would protect it from both detection and attack.
Goldfein’s own remarks seem to have been spurred by the recent conclusion of the U.S. Air Force’s annual Red Flag exercise in Nevada, in which the F-35 performed relatively well, not only acting on its own, but also almost like an AWACS would, alerting other, older fighter jets to threats before they could see them. From the Air Force Times:
During Red Flag, which ended Friday, Goldfein said the aircraft was “exceeding our expectations when it comes to not only being able to survive, but to prosecute targets.”
One pilot who flew in the exercise reported that even novice pilots were quickly “killing” fourth generation aircraft during air-to-air combat.
“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, said in a news release. “He gets on the radio and tells an experienced, 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft: ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.’”
The younger pilot “killed” the simulated enemy aircraft and was able to rack up three more kills over the next hour.
Goldfein, as the head of the USAF, has a vested interest in touting the F-35s abilities, considering how much the USAF has staked on the vast program. So it makes sense that he would go to a think tank that a lot of members of Congress supposedly listen to, and talk up the jet.
But Russia apparently really doesn’t like Goldfein mentioning the prospect of an American fighter jet over Russian skies, saying that if an F-35 over Russia would never be alone (because a Russian fighter jet would fly up and shoot it down, presumably), and bringing up Vietnam like the group chat brings up your ex.
What then followed looks to be a Soviet-era propaganda video featuring what sounds like an opera singer, with lyrics in Russian about “you can’t take the away the sky from Vietnam” and “you can’t take the sun away from Vietnam.”
Russia’s just having a normal one on Twitter.