The U.S. Navy just dropped another $2.4 billion on a class of new light aircraft carriers specifically designed to carry the U.S. Marines’ F-35B stealth jump jet. Just one small problem: the F-35B is still plagued by design problems — and there’s no guarantee if or when they’ll be resolved.
Archived posts with tag ‘F-35B’
For seven decades, they’ve been the ultimate symbol of American power. When conflicts break out across the globe, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers — fast, mobile and each packing more firepower than most countries’ entire air force — have been the first responders, more of than than not. “When word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: where is the nearest carrier?” Bill Clinton famously said.
The NATO-led aerial armada that struck Libyan targets beginning March 20 was notable for what it lacked. Though some American naval jets flew from land bases, the air strikes on forces loyal to repressive Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were not supported by a large-deck U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. All of the Navy’s 11 large flattops were on deployment to other conflict zones or in maintenance.
The future of the Marines, which has been hotly debated ever since Defense Secretary Robert Gates referred to it as our “second land army” days after he announced the closure of Joint Forces Command, may well lie more in the air than on the sea.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is expected to announce on Thursday that he’s cutting a bunch of poor performers from the Pentagon arsenal as part of his plan to save $100 billion from military accounts. But the most profound decision won’t be a termination at all. Gates is widely expected to tell the Marine Corps that they’ll have to wait an extra two years before they can get their version of the gazillion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense’s announcement in October that it would drop the vertical-landing F-35B fighter in favor of a much smaller number of cheaper, conventional F-35Cs clearly vexed the only two other firm, current customers for the stealthy F-35B. With a planned total of 138 F-35Bs, the Royal Navy accounted for nearly a third of projected production of the sophisticated successor to the legendary Harrier jump jet. The U.S. Marines intend to buy 420 copies to equip 22 combat squadrons; the Italian navy wants 22 examples for their Cavour light carrier. Slashing 30 percent of the planned F-35Bs will raise the unit cost for an airplane that is already over budget, behind schedule and plagued by design flaws.