Re: Ultimate CAS
Stealth is a disadvantage in Wild Weasel as the enemy has to see you to shoot at you and they have to think they have a shot at you in order for them activate their SAMs and give you a target to shoot at. Most of the modern electronics of the F-35 are designed for air to air work. A decent radar warning system is all a drone would need and those aren't that expensive, especially when you want to build hundreds if not thousands of them.
Shoot first missions are done more and more by cruise missiles and drones because we don't want to risk pilot's lives by flying them into heavy air defense. The F-35 is insufficiently stealthy to pull this off reliably anyways so you'd have to turn to B-2s.
The reason we worry about survival chances in SEAD missions is because they're flown by pilots and pilots are worth a lot more than their aircraft to us. Drones are unmanned, nobody cares if a few million dollars worth of drones gets shot down to kill tens of millions worth of SAM sites. Using drones in SEAD is a simple numbers game, can I afford to throw drones at your defenses, even when I'm losing multiple drones per site I kill? Do I have enough drones to saturate your defenses and force you to shut down or lose them all?
If it comes to that kind of numbers game, Western powers vs the kind of threat we've been fighting, insurgents and Middle eastern dictators, the bad guys don't stand a chance. And that tactic isn't limited just to them, it works just as well against the Russians and the Chinese, the only difference is that if you want to use this against the Russians and the Chinese, you'll need to either go all out and bring drones equipped for air to air missions and shoot everything that's not yours or you'll need to bring your own air superiority planes to keep the enemy from using their planes to hunt your drones.
And if you're using drones as decoys, then you'll want something that can carry lots of ordnance to back them up. F-18s or F-16s, perhaps after another modernization program, are perfectly capable of the job, can carry more ordnance further and longer than the F-35 and can outfight it up close where it matters.