The threat dynamics just changed - the F-35 was based on a plan out of the late 80’s to have a common aircraft (as if the F-111 did so well) and was to be hampered by it throughout its life.@SQ8 the F-35 is possibly the closest thing to a 'special operations forces fighter' ever made. You could have an LHD out there carrying F-35Bs, AH-1Zs, and UH-1Ys alongside a SEALS unit. This force could launch Abbotabad-style missions all over the world from the seas. They won't take out an enemy military force, but for very specific effects, this as good a unit as you could deploy from sea without sending an entire fleet.
In other words ... the F-35 is an amazing niche fighter, but it isn't a generalized fleet-builder like the F-16 or F-15. The closest singular design to that goal would be the Rafale and Typhoon.
If the USAF takes that route, it would, ironically, settle on a design that's (from solely a raw features standpoint) similar to the Super Hornet, i.e., medium-weight, twin-engine, adept at both air-to-air and air-to-surface, etc.
The advanced ADGE that the F-35 was designed to fight has not proliferated to the degree expected and long range cruise systems have made the need to penetrate these ADGEs moot. PAF experience on the 27th is plenty proof of it.
However, even in those cases -the combined threats of Russia and China can be tackled by a force mix of 180 raptors and 500-600 F-35s.
They are that potent in terms of providing the initial blows that when backup by 4.5gen can lay waste to any potential “peer” adversary.