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What’s next for the F-35?

According to a recent National Defense magazine article, the Marine Corps would be weakened if the Joint Strike Fighter, the world’s first supersonic and radar-evading stealth aircraft with short take-off and vertical landing capabilities, isn’t approved.

The F-35 Lightning II was developed by Lockheed Martin as part of their Joint Strike Fighter Program. Lockheed Martin produced three variants of the aircraft and the Marine Corps is getting the F-35B, the short take-off vertical landing variant.

The jet will become the primary aircraft fighter for the Marine Corps once it’s in the Corps’ air arsenal. It’s slated to replace the Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet and EA-6B Prowler, and the Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II.

Maj. Joseph “O.D.” Bachmann became the first Marine to pilot the F-35 in a developmental test flight at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics plant in Fort Worth, Texas, March 19. He said the F-35 can do everything the Marine Corps’ legacy fighter jets can do, “but cheaper and better.”

The JSF’s next generation stealth, superb situational awareness and reduced vulnerability will make the F-35 hard to find,  hard to hit and hard to kill.

The JSF’s next generation stealth, superb situational awareness and reduced vulnerability will make the F-35 hard to find, hard to hit and hard to kill.

One of the F-35’s best of many capabilities is stealth, he added. This will be the first time the Corps will have a stealth aircraft, which according to Marine officials, will make the Marines adapt to new warfighting tactics.

The F-35B is the world’s first supersonic and radar-evading stealth aircraft with short take-off and vertical landing capabilities. The aircraft can operate from a variety of ships, roads and austere bases.

“When the F-35 gets fielded, the rest of the world can’t turn a blind eye to our force being stealth,” said Bachmann. “[The enemy] won’t ever know we’re coming. It’s awesome.”

Operation support cost is also reduced with the F-35. According to Lockheed Martin, the F-35B will provide unequaled multi-mission capability with a fraction of the support required by other fighter jets.

“This aircraft and its game-changing capabilities are going to offer Marine and joint force commanders on the front lines the most affordable and technologically-advanced fifth-generation aircraft in the world,” said Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. George Trautman.

The three F-35 variants were derived from a common design developed together. Using the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide, the F-35 will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially, making the aircraft the most cost-effective fighter program in history, according to a Lockheed Martin press release.

Doug Pearson, vice president of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Test Force, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, stressed that when Marines operate all around the world in the ugliest situations, they need to be able to call upon a “survival machine” to go into harm’s way, survive and be effective. And that’s what the F-35 is designed to do.

“We’re diligently working to keep our edge,” said Pearson. “God forbid we ever have a major conflict. But if we do, we need [this aircraft] and we need it to be swift.”

The JSF is highly lethal in air-to-ground precision strikes in all weather and in air-to-air combat engagements.

The JSF is highly lethal in air-to-ground precision strikes in all weather and in air-to-air combat engagements.

Bachmann sees the most important role of the aircraft is its benefit to the Marine walking point in a combat zone, when it’s dark, scary and the enemy is near. There’s a strike fighter that’ll be in the air that’s lethal, stealthy and it will kill the enemy before they know they’re being watched, he illustrated.

“For the Marine that’s out on the front all by himself, he’s going to have a higher level of protection behind him,” he said.

The whole point of the production of the aircraft was to protect the Marines on the ground — the grunts, said Staff Sgt. Ben Tchinski, an aviation ordinance technician and an F-35 basic maintainer with integrated test force out of Patuxent River, Md.

“The Joint Strike Fighter will save more lives and kill more bad guys,” he said.

“The Marine Corps opted to wait more than ten years for this multi-role aircraft rather than invest billions of dollars in legacy upgrades that offer only marginal incremental improvement in operational performance at high cost,” Trautman said. “We didn’t want something ‘a little better.’ We wanted an aircraft that will allow us to leverage technologies that have improved tremendously over the past few years. The F-35 is an aircraft that can perform a wide variety of missions across the full range of military operations far better than any other aircraft flying anywhere today.”

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  • Dave

    The F-35 is too vunerable to ground fire. It can be brought down with a single round from an AK47.

  • Anonymous

    The A-10 is fine in a low threat environment, once the AAA threat is diminished and air superiority has been achieved; neither of which is likely to be the case in the early hours of an amphibious assault, but it’s slow, possesses subpar overall performance; like climbing ability for one, and is a magnet for IR MANPADS. The Air Force lost more A-10s to ground fire in Desert Storm than the Marine Corps lost AV-8Bs. Adding the A-10; which would require a lot more engineering to navalize than simply adding folding wings and it still wouldn’t be able to operate from LHAs/LHDS or CVNs, also conflicts with the Corps goal to field one fixed-wing tactical airframe.

  • Anonymous

    The A-10 is fine in a low threat environment, once the AAA threat is diminished and air superiority has been achieved; neither of which is likely to be the case in the early hours of an amphibious assault, but it’s slow, possesses subpar overall performance; like climbing ability for one, and is a magnet for IR MANPADS. The Air Force lost more A-10s to ground fire in Desert Storm than the Marine Corps lost AV-8Bs. Adding the A-10; which would require a lot more engineering to navalize than simply adding folding wings and it still wouldn’t be able to operate from LHAs/LHDS or CVNs, also conflicts with the Corps goal to field one fixed-wing tactical airframe.

  • Anonymous

    STOVAL(sic)

    That would be STOVL, goat.

    Suggest you do some research on the tactic of VIFFing that Harrier jocks utilize in the air-to-air environment and then revise your comments.

  • http://twitter.com/ReinerStehr Reiner Stehr

    F35 the best fighter on the air – good machine

  • Knuckledragger

    The F-35 as a series is utter crap. Its overpriced and has come up short on a few of its performance points. Yes its a Strike Fighter as its name so bluntly states. So it shouldn’t be primo at air-to-air and honestly when looking at the biggest threat on the Market, the Flanker, its hopelessly outmatched and relying on “Low Observability” (not Stealth, though its RCS is damn good in theory) to save it. I don’t like the fact that our pilots need to depend upon technology as their sole saving grace when it comes to a air to air fight. And a lot of the advantages we enjoy are being employed on these systems as well (Helmet Gunsights/HUDs; all aspect, high off-boresite IR missiles; Advanced AR/SAR missiles). And you can sit there and talk about the CAS mission but given our “expeditionary” nature we’re needed to do everything in case that Naval or Air Force support is not there. Remember these will operate off of Amphibs. What if the opposing element puts up 2nd or 1st rate Russian aircraft? I don’t like the idea of our entire fleet being the F-35B alone. Even our Legacy and Super Hornets are outclassed in many respects by the Flanker and the Flanker is finding itself being sold in export variants all around the world. Most of the nations “most likely to be a problem” have at least a handful of Flankers. And the newest ones have a very powerful radar that could offset the “stealth-like” capabilities of the Lightning-II. I fear putting all our eggs into one basket for a technological wonder that has yet to fully prove itself. But I also see the need to replace a high flight hours Legacy Hornet and Harrier fleet. Also I wonder how the F-35B is slated to replace the Prowler? I’m pretty sure out of the box they lack the jamming equipment of the Prowler. Also there goes all LO VIS traits when you hang the three jamming pods on it and it radiates. Not that it matters since radiating sort of lets everyone know you’re there anyways. Its only my opinion but I see the whole F-35 concept as worrying and reading failure after failure or “stop gap” because something didn’t work as planned and they have to go to something else which will reduce its all ready limited capabilities and its constantly rising price is just scary. But I know the Corps will most certainly not want to give up on the only good thing coming its way since well, the Legacy Hornets, and a chance to get a very old Harrier fleet replaced.

  • Destinyzero000

    First off, who cares if its ugly? If it can do its job fast quick and protect our men, then build it, if it can save them money for better ground supplies then build it, if it can sit above our men and cover them from “tanks” or even small fries, and not have to only do fly byes, I say build it, like if you say not to but it cause its ugly? Well then are military would he useless if thy all were thinking like that. And if you say they wouldn’t be the vest in air-to*air combat, thyself what support fighters are for I’m pretty sure an f-22 wouldn’t have a problem cover someone who is protecting our ground forces :) build it! We need this air craft!

  • Jlong6302

    I wonder about the forward facing fan intake cover. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have it front hinged? That way, in the event of failure, wind pressure could force it down. Plus, does the fan present any danger to ejecting pilots? Especially with that huge catchers mitt right behind them.

  • Marine4Life2011

    These comments are hilarious.  Think about what you are all saying.  “The JSF is trying to fill too many roles.”  That is what the Marine Corps needs.  That is what sets us apart from all of the other services.  We are able to go in, kick butt in the Air to Air arena, conduct a strike mission, and then fight our way back out.  Marines must be able to flex at any time.  “It is ugly as hell”?  Really?  That would be an awesome argument if wars were won on looks. 

  • 11strtgldr

    The Corps Needs a Plane like the A-10… Why does the U.S. Chair Force have the best Ground Support plane ever built?? Build a modern A-10 with folding wings… The Argument would be over!!! 

  • Ewells3

    we need to stay strong so we can stay FREE!!

  • MarineMom

    Only the USMC will have STOVAL.  There are other variations that are without for other branches.

  • the few, the proud…

    The Marine Corps aviation, overall, has one main purpose: provide support for the men on the ground. Whether that is by destroying areas with known enemy before our grunts are engaged by them, or if it is coming in during a firefight and giving Close Air Support (CAS) to those men.  As far as the hierarchy of air to air fighting, Marine Corps is third to be called to that style of fight. First is Air Force, then Navy, then the Corps.  Especially in today’s fight, the need for the Marine’s air to air capabilities don’t need to equal that of the Air Force or Navy, and that is why the three different designs were introduced.  Each branch got the design that is best suited for the missions that they fly. Hope this helps clear it up a bit… 

  • Write2thegoat

    I personally feel that having a modern military is an important thing to have but personally have my doubts on the JSF (though these are very few)
    Personally I think that the JSF is trying to fill too many roles at the same time. STOVAL is a handy thing to have and but I feel like if the JSF ever had to go up against another modern fighter that is a dedicated Air to Air it would be overly vulnerable. This may be misplaced but logic dictates that the STOVAL system may slow the over all plane down and cut some manuverability. At least to me that to replace ALL of our specialized combat aircraft for one multi-role aircraft seems folly, but thats just my opinion.
    And please if anyone can set me straight I welcome the opportunity to hear some more opinions. I’m not completely familiar with this topic as a whole; only bits and pieces.

  • James Huff

    No question this would change how the world looks at the U.S.

  • Recon560

    The Corps needs this air craft dont cut it ot of the budject we need a new close combat support for the Grunts on the ground.

  • Cavanaughc86

    the F-35 is too bulky for what the Marines need it for.. plus its ugly as hell. the flip top for the air inlet on top could also create alot of drag durring take off. The Marines are supposed to be light and swift this new aircrafts tires are bigger than the ground crew. Bigger planes equals less space on your carrier based ships