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Navy and Marine Corps F-35 Purchase Plan Revealed

by John Reed on March 14, 2011

The Department of the Navy is finally revealing details about the mix of 680 F-35Cs and F-35Bs it intends to buy for the Navy and Marine Corps.

From Defense News:

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps strike fighter picture will become clearer under an updated interservice agreement set to be signed March 14, according to a senior defense official.

The Tactical Air memorandum of understanding ratifies the Navy Department’s plan to buy 680 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters (JSF), and details the exact mix of variants and who will fly them. Of the total, 260 will be Navy F-35C carrier-based aircraft, 80 will be Marine F-35Cs, and 340 will be Marine F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) planes.

This comes about a week after Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos revealed the service will purchase some F-35Cs, keeping the Corps big deck carrier presence alive.

The the agreement also stipulates that the Marines will only fly the C-model jets from big deck carriers, keeping the B-models on amphibious assault ships and land bases, according to the article. The first Navy F-35C squadron will stand up in 2015 with the first Marine F-35C squadron a year later.

Here are more details.

Well done, Chris Cavas.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Nadnerbus March 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Wait, so the Marines are getting 420 F-35 to the Navy's 260? How does that make sense?

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Tn Marine March 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Because the Marines are replacing about 126 AV-8B and 238 F-18C/D. The USMC is also investigating an electronic attack role for the F-35 Lightning II to replace their EA-6B Prowlers. Also, the navy has a about 400 still relatively new Super Hornets that aren't going to be replaced anytime soon.

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Praetorian March 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm

The Navy also just put in an order for 120 – 130 new Super Hornets. Any reason why the Marines are not looking at the EA-18G Growler ?

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blight March 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Wasn't JSF slated to receive an electronic attack package of some kind? If so, it would probably be better than the Growler.

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Joe Schmoe March 15, 2011 at 3:13 am

Nope.

From what I've understood, they are going to be using the Next Generation Jammer, same as the EA-18G.

Though this is much more problematic with just one crewmember.

Nadnerbus March 15, 2011 at 1:11 am

I guess the Navy is saving their credit for for the X 47 or whatever UCAS is their future work horse.

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Roland March 15, 2011 at 6:37 am

Do not replace the old planes just add the new ones. All the old planes can still be usefull in an event of a crises with North Korea, Iran, or libya; asia and middle eastern countries. It is all about quantity and quality. And check the overall engines and machinery capability and reliance of the new planes before mass production.

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ward March 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Bye, bye, STOVL.

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Jordan April 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm

its vstol there big guy..

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Grumpy March 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Naderbus, Sense?!?!? This is Government, when this stuff starts to make sense, *get to the hospital, you need help quick, like yesterday!*

You might say, "Get serious." My reply, "I am serious, that's the sad part about it."

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SJE March 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Why is the USMC assuming that that the F35B will enter production, which is generally regarded as likely as equipping the USMC with unicorns? Perhaps they should put a horn on the F35C.

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robert March 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Why not reduce the Air force spending with so many officers filling positions that would be filled with enlisted personnel in other branches.

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blight March 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Thought it was Hap Arnold(?) from the earliest days of the Army Air Corps who wanted a better educated Air Force, leading to officers creeping into almost all functions.

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Pailang November 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

thelpskiva on March 12, 2011 well i thik its the moon ..the moon gona be so close to earth that it havent ben so slose in a huredd years and the moon afects the water, if its river or stream you see even people gets afected some hav hard to slep and athers have a bad headace, well a lot of people have headeace when its full moon because a human body bestand in about 70% of water or something like that i think

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chaos0xomega March 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

420 planes for the Marine Corps? Totally not happening in a reasonable time frame with the Marine Corps current budget. Not if it wants to introduce a new EFV (or whatever it is they are calling it) within 4 years, plus other new programs they have going,

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Beltway Bandit March 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm

EFV got canceled about a month or so ago. Gates put the kibosh on a myriad of other things. Welcome to 2011.

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Joe Schmoe March 15, 2011 at 3:15 am

He said "the new EFV", which is the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV)

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Connect March 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

"a myriad" = nonsense.
"myriad" = literally 10,000, but colloquially a whole heck of a lot.

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Ryan March 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

And how will the Marines continue to be able to afford all this gross expenditure on their Air Wing? A), Even the British have admitted that the Harrier jet is not even a platform necessitating a replacement, B) given the F-35B the most expensive variant one would just think, it probably would be the least procured, and C) if the Marines can get Super Hornets for 1/3 the price of either an F-35C or F-35B, I'm thinking they need more Supers and less JSF's considering they blew their wad on V-22's costing three times as much as a readily viable alternative, and the fact that the H-1 upgrade fiasco slash bailout for Bell Helicopter is coming in way over what was initially sold to Congress. When did the Marines win the lottery, I missed that article?

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blight March 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm

To be fair, the more you buy into Super Hornet the more its price advantage becomes apparent: more units will drop the price more and more. And with JSF, if you drop units price will simply rise.

The military needs to go more-in into JSF to leverage economies of scale and associated price drops. JSF can probably operate in buddy with the twin-engined Super Hornet, which will act as support coming in after stealthy internal weapons bay JSF.

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Jacob March 15, 2011 at 12:18 am

The JSF is already going to dozens of air forces around the world, you're not going to get a bigger market share than that. What we need to do is avoid high-risk, low-maturity technology, and avoid requirements-creep during the procurement process. If our defense procurement goes any further south, our military is going to be flying Eurofighters and Rafaels for the next few decades.

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Oblat March 15, 2011 at 1:15 am

The Chinese will be making over half a trillion dollars in loan repayments from this deal – so at least they are happy.

The navy does need so many JSF because the F-35 cant carry harpoon so they really just take up space on carrier decks that could be better put to use by multi-role aircraft such as the F-18.

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4prey March 15, 2011 at 9:46 am

Well, then two F-35 can carry one harpoon :D

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Tony C. March 15, 2011 at 8:27 am

Looks like the USMC has a plan to get the F-35B, make it the primary strike aircraft.
The USMC likes the AV-8B and they aren't going to give up the forward deployed
mode of operation unless directed by the DOD to change. The USMC didn't give up on the V-22 either. Seems to me that the battle line for future budgets have been drawn.

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Steve W March 15, 2011 at 9:00 am

Both the F-35B & the V-22 are going to come back and bite them. Two big mistakes.

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chaos0xomega March 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Agreed. I can almost foresee newspaper headlines in the future, describing how F-35B's need to be sent in for refurbishment or what have you, because their stealth coating is too delicate to handle the rigors of being forward deployed, and the engines and undercarriages are shot to shit from life as usual in an austere airfield.

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Brian March 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm

F-18s operate from austere airfields?

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Ebbe March 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Maybe the marines over-reached a bit in requesting some of the most expensive and controversial weapons programs: EFV, V-22, and F-35B. Are their equipment purchases larger than the army now? 420 F-35s for the marines? Really?

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6591 USMC March 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm

AS the Marines carry the largest load when it comes to rapid deployment forces, the largest load when it comes to expeditionary forces, and the largest load when it comes to forward based operations, their plans are consistent with their century old requirement for organic support of their ground forces. They learned long ago not to depend on the other services to delivery the support they need when they need it and how they need it. The other services are and always have been bigger, slower and better suited to strategic and logistic missions in the air and large force movements depending on huge logistic support on the ground. As always, we will get a bigger bang for the buck with the Marines.

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blight March 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm

It's a little specious to say that the Marines are completely independent of all other services (as they depend on the Navy to maintain their amphibious capability, which isn't exactly low-cost).

However, the Marines are at least an integrated service, and did not fracture in the same way that the Army Air Corps split off to pursue their own flights of fancy, then imposed Key West to get a monopoly on aviation.

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Sanem March 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

times have changed, GPS mortars and UAV make all the difference in fire support, and you can have a LOT of those for the price of one F-35B

the USAF burned all bridges (F-22, 4th+ Gen, J-UCAS), betting everything on the F-35A. they'll get the bill later. the USN however is putting a lot of effort into the X-47B, greater performance for a lower price. so I wouldn't be too sure that the F-35C will even be an option for the Marines

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FtD March 16, 2011 at 4:42 am

agreed, when USN gets the X-47B into service, they'll have a 24/7 all weather striker, fraction to the cost of F35C & zero fatality. That really puts F35 into no mans land as their 'stealth' striker role's taken by X47 & it's not fast enough to be an interceptor/escort. so why USN needs F35 to clog up their carriers' flight decks?

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Guest March 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

On of the missions for the F-35 flight leaders will be to designate target priority on-site to the X-47s and other F-35s.

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Simon March 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm

The F-35 (regardless of what model the Corps,Navy and Air Force purchase) will be a disaster for the United States long term. Regardless of what Lockheed Martin and the politicians say the survivability of the F-35 in a modern IADS environment is very low. The F-22, B2 and UCAV's with their very low RCS are the only answer to increasingly sophisticated Russian and Chinese technology which most US politicians still seem to think is 10-15 years behind the West. Both the new Russian and Chinese stealth fighter prototypes are already widely acknowledged to be superior to the F-35 in all performance regimes. Our men and women who will fly the F-35 into combat one day will sadly pay the price for our nation’s ignorance.

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William C. March 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Who says their survivability is very low? APA?

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Guest March 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

F-35s are just as survivable as any of the A/C you just mentioned, and it's most likely not going to go toe to toe with any Russky or Chicom planes to begin with.

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James March 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm

When I was in the Marines (back in the 90s) I learned from my colleagues in fiscal about how funding for the Marines worked. According to them there are blue dollars and green dollars. Blue dollars was Navy money and was used for aviation related expenses to include procurement. Green dollars was the money allocated directly to the Corps by Congress and was used to pay for anything related to ground forces. IF this is still the case then the Marines can "buy" what they want/need because the Navy is picking up the tab. I'm not sure why they are only buying 80 C models and so many B models. As of right now the majority of Marine Corps fixed-wing assets are F/A-18s operated by 13 operation squadrons as 2 training squadrons. By comparison there are only 7 Harrier squadrons plus 1 training squadron. 80 C models is enough for 6 squadrons of 12 aircraft with a few spares. 340 B models on the other hand is enough for 28 squadrons of 12 aircraft. Is this a possible switch of numbers or does this represent a major organization shift in Marine Corps aviation in which the F/A-18 A/C will be retired completely and 2/3 of the squadrons converted to F-35Bs and the remaining squadrons converted to C models?

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James March 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Replacing the F/A-18 B/D in the 5 operation (all weather) and 1 of the training squadrons accounts for nearly all 80 of the C models. However converting the 7 Harrier squadrons and it's training squadron, the remaining 8 F/A-18 A/C operation squadrons and one of the other Hornet training squadrons on accounts for 204 aircraft. Not taking spare airframes into account there is 136 extra aircraft being purchased. What is the plan for all those airframes? Larger squadrons? Activation of new/deactivated units? Either way those extra aircraft can be used to create 11 additional squadrons which represents an approximately 40% increase in the size of their fixed wing assets (not taxing into tankers, UAVs or the single transport squadron)

I agree with 6591 USMC in that that the Corps still provides the greatest bang for the buck so they should get a higher funding priority as a result. Given the manner in which MEUs are operated in a forward deployed status typically without carrier coverage it is very important for the Marines to maintain their own tactical air assets to support the ground pounders.

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James March 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm

As far as the F-35 vs F-22 I think it depends on the role it is meant to fill. As a air superiority fighter that is meant to go up against 5th generation fighters and IADS it does far short. I think we are making a huge mistake in limited F-22 numbers. The current F-22 buy doesn't even come close to replacing the F-15 fleet (which is what is supposed to do) which will require us to continue to rely on the F-15 which unfortunately is becoming a dated airframe. When used in a close air support role or against other battlefield roles it should do well against the type of threats that would be encountered.

Sorry for the three posts but it was the only way I could get all my comments in due to length restrictions.

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Max May 13, 2011 at 10:31 am

Why do the Marines need their own air force? Why not rely on joint fires like the Army? Why build a CONOPs that does not rely on Navy and Air Force support? Is this a hang up from WWII? Were Marine fighters required to operate off of decks to engage in our latest battles? The expense for the US is staggering to equip the Marines with their own air force. The JSF program was put together to pay for Marine STOVL development at the expense of Air Force and Navy. Time to stop the madness.

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Shaun January 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Really? Read First to Fight or study the history of the Marine Corps and you will understand the need. Even look at current events and the branch and aircraft that respond.

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William C. March 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm

APA? *sigh*
I'll let somebody else deal with that can of worms.

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Simon March 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Have a read of the article I attached and others on the APA site about Russian and Chinese IADS systems.. Might open some people's eyes to what the "real" threat environment is like now for our military aircraft. Kind of feels like Uncle Sam has been asleep at the wheel for the last 10-15 years or should I say the West has been far too liberal with the amount of technology shared with Russia and China.

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