Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos confirmed today that the Marines are looking to operate some F-35C carrier variant Joint Strike Fighters. This is a big deal. If the Marines buy the C, it will solidify the future of fixed wing tactical jets in the Corps if the troubled B-model gets axed. It also shows that Marine Corps aviators will keep flying long-legged (I mean long-range) strike jets off big deck aircraft carriers for the foreseeable future.
From sister site DoDBuzz:
The commandant confirmed that the Marines were looking at buying some F-35Cs, the carrier variant, to keep their hands in on carrier operations. Amos said it wasn’t clear yet whether F-35Bs will operate from carriers, which is almost certain to be the result of the combination of great thrust and heat from the plane’s engines, something that has worried testers for some time. The Marines have been making modifications to the plane’s power plant that are supposed to ameliorate the problem, but Amos’ comments today seem to indicate they are not confident in whether they will work. Amos did not offer any numbers.
I wrote this article back in November about the Marines pulling out of the B program and purchasing C-model jets. The big question is; is the B’s ability to fly off small deck ships and small bases really worth the cost and schedule delays associated with the program? How much of an advantage does STOVL give the Corps? How many times have the V/STOL abilities of the AV-8B Harrier fleet proven critical in that jet’s decades of service?
It’s still unclear how many of the 680 jets purchased for the Navy and Marines will be B versus C model JSFs.