Recently, A detachment of F-35B jets landed on board the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, marking the first time the aircraft has deployed on board a US Navy ship.

“Pairing F-35B Lightning II’s with the Wasp represents one of the most significant leaps in warfighting capability for the Navy-Marine Corps team in our lifetime,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7.

“This 5th generation stealth jet is extremely versatile, and will greatly enhance and expand our operational capabilities.”

According to the US Navy, VMFA-121 Pilots are scheduled to conduct a series of qualification flights on Wasp over a multi-day period. Following qualifications, the F-35B’s and 2,300 Marines that make up the 31st MEU will deploy aboard ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group for follow-on operations in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a ,routine patrol to strengthen regional alliances, provide rapid-response capability’.

“The 31st MEU is the only forward-deployed MEU in the region. The F-35B serves as one airframe within a multitude of air capabilities of the MEU’s Air Combat Element.

Air, ground, and logistics forces make up the MEU’s Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), a composite of capabilities that allow the MEU, in partnership with Navy amphibious ships, to conduct a wide-range of missions from crisis response to disaster relief.”

The US say that the aircraft is equally capable of conducting precision strikes inland, supporting Marines inserted ashore or providing air defence for the Expeditionary Strike Group.

It’s no secret that the F-35 has had severe cost and schedule issues.

The F-35 programme has gone through serious teething problems, problems also experienced by the majority of complex aircraft flying today such as the F-15, Typhoon or any other modern combat jet.

The biggest issue for the project continues to be the fact it is the most expensive military weapons system in history owing to the sheer scope of the programme but that being said, aircraft costs are now coming down and will soon be similar to the cost of many aircraft it’s replacing.

Today the programme is maturing rapidly, right now much of the activity around the jet is dealing with software bugs and testing to validate the software, with most of the physical testing being to do with weapons integration and the gradual scaling up of capabilities that comes with each new software block.

The jet is a quantum leap in capability, able to give the pilot as much information as only theatre commanders have previously had. While the primary value of the jet is in its sensor and networking capabilities, it is also valuable in that it’s able to perform many tasks designed to increase the lethality of not only itself but other assets, such tasks include the ability to co-ordinate small fleets of unmanned combat aircraft, guide weapons launched from other platforms (even warships), launch a wide-range of its own weapons and use it’s own radar to conduct electronic attacks.

9 COMMENTS

  1. There are very few nations who will be able to deploy 5th generation stealth fighters from aircraft carriers as we move into the next decade.
    It isn’t an easy task.
    The top tier of naval forces will have both this capability and nuclear submarines to provide a genuine strategic reach, any navy without this will be second tier.

      • The Australians thought of buying F35b’s for the Canberra class but realised that the cost of additional fuel lines and storage, hanger changes and engineering support, specialist air traffic control radars, deck landing aids, deck strengthening and coating as well as the cost of the planes themselves and additional pilot & other personnel training etc. was prohibitive in respect of theF35b’s.
        And doesn’t the maintenance of stealth aircraft present it’s own challenges even on land, never mind at sea.?

        • It wouldn’t be dirt cheap Jack, if the Wasp took 6 F-35B, presume one of these would take say 4 for which you’d need a fleet of 8 at $100m each (price dropping) by the time they’re needed when launched not commissioned, add on $100m for extra upgrading to the ship plus $100m logistics to make a start on the money, plus the $400m, you get $1.4 million, i.e. £1 billion. I agree threre may be other costs but I’ve not even seen a projection of numbers carried let alone costs.

          But compare that to the QE at £3bn + say £3bn to maintain a usable 24 F-35B for £6 billion total. It’s reasonably proportionate for a small country to get naval air capability, specially if they can pool overhead costs at all with other small countries.

  2. I know that the F35 is a great aircraft but i would rather see two full complements of Gripens on board the QE Class than 20 F35’s

  3. Wait a minute. Do they just have a really good fleet of ships with economies of scale, and when this new technology came along they just put the planes on the ships they had? They didn’t invent a new deck paint? They didn’t spend 10bn and 10+ years building new ships and only two of them? They didn’t spend 2 more years doing flight trials? What a bunch of flyboy amateurs.

  4. Operational testing with the F-35B as a Marine squadron deployed in the East China Sea on the LHD-1 Wasp for the first-ever shipboard deployment , part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit “The F-35B is a game-changer for the Marine Corps,” Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, VMFA-121 commanding officer said in a statement March 5. What is not stated is whether or not it will include the required intermediate-level maintenance capabilities, ALIS, which provide a level of support between the squadron and the depots so that repairs can be done at sea.

    The billion $s software Autonomic Logistics Information System, ALIS, is a “system-of-systems” that connects maintenance, supply chain and sustainment information into a single management tool, the fleet management backbone for the F-35 and to plan and debrief missions. ALIS turns maintenance data into actionable information that enables pilots, maintainers and keep jets flying.

    Note
    Lockheed Martin owns 100 percent of F-35 sustainment including data rights, not the US DOD. The USAF is in the middle of an in-depth study of ALIS and its shortfalls, which should be completed by the end of the year (2018), upgrades are proving to be “longer and more manpower intense” than expected.
    ” for the first ever shipboard deployment March 2018″ Marines previously claimed F-35B Blk 2B IOC after deployment on Wasp July 2015, which a DOT&E report showed was wildly optimistic.

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