STOVL was a mistake
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My understanding is that STOVL fighter jets like the Harrier were conceived during the Cold War as a way to have an air force that would be resilient against bombing. Instead of a few large airbases, you'd have a larger number of smaller bases that would be spread out and more difficult to eliminate. You would also have the ability to take-off without a runway in the event that your runway was bombed, and you could put your aircraft closer to the front line because they can take-off and land almost anywhere.
However, in practice this idea has never been successfully implemented. The only niche where STOVL craft have ever found success is when being operated from amphibious carriers, where they are not even really needed. So what then, is the justification for continued purchases of these aircraft?