USA — Plan Improves Navy, Marine Corps Air Capabilities

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2011 — Navy and Marine Corps lead­ers today signed an agree­ment by which the Corps will join the Navy in buy­ing the F‑35 joint strike fight­er vari­ant designed for air­craft car­ri­ers, ser­vice lead­ers announced today.
Navy Sec­re­tary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Oper­a­tions Adm. Gary Roug­head, and Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen. James F. Amos signed a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment today on the pur­chase of F/A‑18E/F and F‑35B/C fight­er jets they say will improve air capa­bil­i­ties for both ser­vices.

Under the agree­ment, the two ser­vices will buy 680 F‑35s. The Navy will buy 260 of the F‑35C car­ri­er vari­ant, and the Marine Corps will buy 80 of the F‑35Cs, along with 340 of the F‑35Bs, a short-take off, ver­ti­cal-land­ing vari­ant. The Corps will assign five of its air squadrons to fly­ing the F‑35Cs in the Navy’s car­ri­er air wing, the agree­ment says.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates announced in Jan­u­ary that he was plac­ing the F‑35B on the equiv­a­lent of two years pro­ba­tion due to test­ing prob­lems with the STOVL air­craft.

Today’s agree­ment demon­strates the com­mit­ment of Gates, Mabus and Roug­head to the pur­chase of the F‑35B, Thomas E. Laux, the Navy’s deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary for air pro­grams, said dur­ing a press brief­ing. “These quan­ti­ties match the fis­cal 2012 bud­get request,” he said.

The F‑35Cs will be assigned to the Navy’s air­craft car­ri­ers, while the “B” vari­ants are assigned to L‑class ships, Laux said. “Our pri­or­i­ty is to do test­ing of the F‑35Cs on the car­ri­er,” he said. “We will learn a lot about the F‑35Bs on the L ships” to deter­mine if the STOVLs may be used on car­ri­ers.

The agree­ment reflects the “endur­ing part­ner­ship” of Navy and Marine Corps avi­a­tion, Laux said. Train­ing for the air­craft will be “com­plete­ly inte­grat­ed,” and there will be only one pipeline, he said.

The com­bi­na­tion of F‑35B and C vari­ants, along with the F‑18s, will improve the ser­vices’ advance air capa­bil­i­ties, ser­vice offi­cials said.

“Togeth­er, the Navy and Marine Corps are stronger than they are alone,” Laux said. “Togeth­er, we are more for­mi­da­ble than we are apart.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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