Last week the U.S. Marine Corps accepted the first combat-designated F-35B stealth fighter at its air station in Yuma, Arizona. The Corps is racing to prep its first frontline F-35B squadron for Initial Operating Capability sometime in the 2015 timeframe. A reputable source provides some context:
The Marines’ early-IOC force is a maximum of 33 jets — the F-35Bs in LRIP-4 through 7, the last of which should be delivered in 2015 if they ever get back on schedule. These are the only Bs that have Block 2B software. Given training and test needs, plus concurrency mods, I don’t see more than one squadron.
These aircraft are limited to 550 knots airspeed, Mach 1.2 and 5.5 G and carry internal weapons only. Of the internal weapons, the only useful weapon for CAS is the GBU-12 LGB. They don’t have AIM-9X, so they are at a disadvantage against almost any air threat unless the ROEs allow BVR engagement with radar only.