The U.S. Marine Corps announced that the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is prepared to join limited initial operations on Friday.
It’s been a long wait, but Commandant Joseph Dunford proudly announced the F-35B is all ready for initial operational capability.
According to the official statement, the first squadron that stands “ready for worldwide deployment” is the Yuma based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121, fully equipped with 10 of the aircrafts.
Acquiring F-35 aircrafts is not a cheap task for the Pentagon. In the latest estimated, the program was estimated at 391 million dollars. The sum would be spent to equip the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Air Force with F-35 aircrafts.
These would include F-35B, versatile aircrafts that combine the flying capabilities of a plane with the landing of the helicopters. The technology is titled STOVL or short-takeoff-and vertical-landing. Moreover, the F-35C version of the aircraft is specially designed for aircraft carriers.
More F-35s will be purchased during 2015. The Navy will see the aircrafts in 2019, while the Air Force is planned to receive them in 2016.
The Marine Corps announced that a total of 420 aircrafts will be purchased. Of these, 353 would be F-35B stealth fighters, with 67 F-35C aircrafts.
It has been a long wait since Lockheed took hold of the contract that asked for the development of the fifth generation of stealth fighter. Since 14 years ago the largest defense contractor delayed the production of the fifth generation F-35s as costs doubled in this timeframe.
Lieutenant General Jon Davis, who is the deputy commandant for aviation commented that the following a five-day inspection drill, it was concluded that the F-35Bs are complying with the initial operational capability criteria.
The kill rates simulated under different mission scenarios were labelled as impressive. The F-35Bs are equipped with Joint Direct Attack Munition – guided by GPS technology, as well as GBU-12 Paveway II bombs, guided by laser.
According to Joseph Dunford, the stealth fighters are ready for:
“Close air support, offensive and defensive counterair, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force”.
The F-35s have been long awaited. Now, the announcement that they meet initial operational capability criteria is timely, as the Marine Corps aim to slowly replace the outdated AV-8B, EA-6B Prowler, and F/A-18 Hornet fleets with the fifth generation of the widely acclaimed stealth fighters.
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