A Glimpse At How the F-35 Will Help the Marines Storm the Beach
Earlier this month, six F-35B Joint Strike Fighters took off from the deck of USS America, a Navy amphibious assault ship off San Diego, California. Four of the Marine Corps aircraft attacked a simulated integrated air defense system on San Clemente Island, while the other two escorted a pair of Boeing V-22 Ospreys that simulated landing Marines on an enemy beach. The Nov. 20 demonstration was a unique “proof of concept” strike/assault support escort mission that also included a Bell UH-1Y Venom helicopter, a Bell AH-1Z Viper, and a Sikorsky MH-60S helicopter. This was a test of the so-called “Lightning Carrier” concept, an aircraft carrier loaded with F-35s and Ospreys. The goal: to show how the Marines would use the F-35B during the first, critical stages of expeditionary fighting, perhaps at the start of a major conflict.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Corps’ top aviation leader, said the F-35B rolls the capabilities of several older aircraft into one:situational awareness, electronic warfare, close air support, air-to-air combat. That makes the V-22 Osprey better at putting boots onto contested ground.
“If I was a bad guy, I would hate the V-22,” said Davis, the Marines’ deputy commandant for aviation. “And if you hate the V-22 out there and you want to try and go after the V-22, the F-35 will create the conditions for success for the V-22 in sanitizing a target area, going after target defenses, [providing] close air support.”