For decades, politicians and defense officials have expected the manned fighter to die, for myriad technological and strategic reasons. In the 1930s, then-U.K. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin claimed “the bomber will always get through” and that defensive fighters were therefore futile. The U.K.’s 1957 white paper on defense killed a number of British fighters, because surface-to-air missiles were expected to render fighters obsolete in a few years. Yet after nearly 100 ...

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