The F-35 fighter, as you may, or may not know, has had a good number of problems. Not the least of which is the cost, as well as the difficulty they've had in getting all of the proposed systems, which are a big part of its attraction, to work properly together.
I bring this up now not to lay more criticism on the F-35. If they can get all of the bugs out perhaps it could be a formidable weapon. There have been some fundamental criticisms (about its wing size, and actual maneuverability, or all of any of the other compromises made to make it a jointly used platform), but little of that matters in a more general discussion on what are longer term threats are going to be, and then what might be the best bang for each unit of effort we need to apply to achieve a adequate response to those threats.
And now that we have actual AI, combat flying software that can beat the best the Air Force has, you also have to ask, are we really looking for manned fighters to be around for as long as the F-35 is supposed to see service life for? And if aircraft carriers are likely to become ever more vulnerable to to all sorts of new, over the horizon threats, not to mention the improving underwater ones, might we also be looking at a conjunction of submerged carriers, with aircraft that are not only smaller, but more agile, and more expendable as well? And if you could create the drones with printing, and modularity, as much as possible, for quick assembly, could they become cheap enough to use to destruction? On the whole, it might not take much to make that a reality as you might think; especially if you put the people, and material, involved with maintenance, into the equation. Because, at that moment, not only is their immediate presence to be taken care of, you are also forced to carry an greatly enlarge logistics stream to provide for that care.
One of the things that makes deciding things like this, especially in a money oriented way of doing things, is that once capital makes an investment, it's extremely hard for it to reverse course; precisely because that means significant loss, as opposed to continuing profits, whether the damn thing works exactly right or not. Any more than in what establishes a priority in the first place is any easier to determine. Obviously, if I have a particular manned platform at the ready to produce, I'm going to favor looking for those threats for which manned still makes sense, again, whether or not, in any objective sense, those threats are really the most severe we face.
Of course the men in uniform have a tendency to resist removing the flesh and blood, thinking machine, from the equation. That's human nature. Just as any of us would not appreciate being replaced by a robot at our jobs, even if they can do it more efficiently. But that is what a Capitalist form of economy encourages nonetheless. It's not only that you might love to fly,or do whatever else, but that it does also put food on the table.