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.