Home » Aviation » Marines Receive First F-35C

Marines Receive First F-35C

An 2010 photo of a Navy F-35C.

A 2010 photo of a Navy F-35C.

The U.S. Marine Corps has taken delivery of its first carrier variant of the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), according to a release from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The fighter is the first of five planned Marine F-35Cs that will be assigned to the VFA-101 squadron – the training group for the carrier variant JSFs at Eglin.

“In the past, Marines have been trained to fly the Navy’s F-18 Hornet to share the load of deployment cycles,” said Marine Lt. Col J.T. Ryan in the statement.
“Now, Marine pilots will be flying the F-35C with the Navy’s Carrier Air Wings while deployed aboard aircraft carriers.”

The Marines had originally planned to use the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant to meet the services requirement for the tactical air assets as part of the Navy’s carrier air wing. Currently, the Marines fly squadrons of the aging F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters on Navy carriers and AV-8B Harriers on the big deck amphibious warships.

The Marines JSF plans changed in 2011 when then commandant Gen. James Amos and Department of the Navy leadership signed an agreement for the Marines to buy 80 of the carrier variant JSFs for a planned five squadrons of 10 aircraft each.

  • Steve Skubinna

    So basically the Navy can’t manage to populate the air wings and have shifted some of the burden to the USMC. And Marine aviators get to spend time operating outside the USMC’s core competencies. Smart.

    Why not just bite the bullet and stand up additional VFAs to fill the wings? More stupid shell games.

  • Machia0705

    Hey Skubinna, ever hear of VFMA squadrons? USN and USMC always hit the blue together. Not sure why it was considered to change it. Nothing’s new here.

    • Steve Skubinna

      USMC aviators are first and foremost “Naval Aviators” and so they are carrier qualified. But this looks as if it’s being done to fill a Navy shortfall. And USMC VMFAs operating from a CVN might not be in place to give CAS to the grunts, which is the whole reason the Marines have them in the first place.

      As I said before, if the point is to fill in the air wings, stand up more VFAs and procure the aircraft and personnel to deploy with them, don’t force the Marines to take the slack.

      • GaryLockhart

        Number one, USMC aviators can either be Naval Aviators or Naval Flight Officers. Number two, NAVAIR has been relying on Marine air to fill out their TOEs since A.A. Cunningham put on his wings. It’s long past time for the squids to fully man and equip their own CVWs but until we have a SecNav and a SecDef who will hold them accountable for failing to do so, they’ll keep relying on the big green machine to bail them out of their “jam”.

        • Eric

          You’re closer to the ‘inside’ or a true milnerd, like I used to be (but, it’s been decades since, for me). I appreciate your relatively precise details on this.

    • GaryLockhart

      “ever hear of VFMA(sic) squadrons?” Machia0705


      “USN and USMC always hit the blue together.” Machia0705

      Not always. There have been periods of time when Marine squadrons were not assigned to CVWs. There was some horse trading that went on back in the early 2000s between the SecNav, CMC and CNO in which three Marine F/A-18 squadrons were assigned to CVWs and three Navy F/A-18 squadrons were assigned to UDP – Unit Deployment Program – duties to support Marine Corps commitments in WESTPAC. The forced acquisition of the F-35C is simply a continuation of this agreement.

      Little known fact was the Corps was strong armed by the CNO into agreeing to acquire 70 F-14s and standup four Tomcat squadrons until SecDef Schlesinger killed the deal in August of 1975. VMFA-122 was to be the first Marine Corps Tomcat squadron at MCAS Beaufort. Several Marine Corps pilots and NFOs actually became type certified in the F-14 and fully completed their training syllabus.

      • Machia0705

        I was aware of the Marines getting their hands on the F-14 first, but your historical knowledge on this bird goes way beyond mine. Thank you for the information…enjoyable to get some real history here.
        What is your opinion on the F35 A,B and C? Mixed reviews on these birds, the C seems to be a bit better than the A variant, lower wing loading.

  • publius_maximus_III

    I assume the Marine pilots will train on both the F-35B and F-35C, but the Navy pilots only on the F-35C?
    Another source for inter-service rivalry: “To B or not-to-B?”

    • GaryLockhart

      “I assume the Marine pilots will train on both the F-35B and F-35C,” publius_maximus_III

      Incorrect assumption.

  • Curtis Conway

    The Department of Defense should relieve the USMC of having to buy F-35Cs and restore their F-35Bs as the sole fighter for future Marine operations. If the USS America (LHA-6) does turn into a concept that grows into more than two examples, the Marines will be ready to man them.

    If the Small Surface Action Group concept takes hold a Light Carrier with a flock of F-35Bs flown by Marines will be something that cannot be ignored, and cost a lot less than a Carrier Strike Group.

    • Secundius

      @ Curtic Conway.

      If Light Carrier’s do take hold in the Fleet, in not going to be based on the LHA-6, America class line. That would be like calling the M1A1 a Light Tank when compared to the M1A3. Mot Likely based on the SCS-75 design, but uprated and modernized. Perfect example is the Spanish Light Carrier SNS. Principe de Asturias, which in fact is an SCS-75 design…

      • Curtis Conway

        If the Navy contracts a new and independently developed light carrier is will turn into a platinum platted money pit before it ever
        sailed a nautical mile.

        When the USS Tarawa (LHA-1) first deployed to the Mediterranean
        the ARG maintained a CAP station for most of the crossing of the Atlantic, and exhibited a launch and recovery rate that any bird farm could only dream about, and no one would even discuss in the open for fear of calling into question the need for Super Carriers. Well, we need the Super Carriers, but as we see more often than not today, operational budget is really soaked up quick maintaining a Proactive Presence anywhere on the planet with a Carrier Strike Group (CSG). Enter the USS American (LHA-6) Light Carrier.

        If Light Carriers take to the seas it will be a cost effective argument that wins the day in the form of an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) based upon a mature and ready technology. The new carrier will not have cats and traps. It will be a VSTOL/STOVL platform that has already proved its effectiveness (Harrier Carrier). The V-22/F-35B ESG Marine Air Wing (MAW) is the compelling part of the argument. Light, fast and capable, the ESG MAW only lacks organic Over The Horizon (OTH) Air Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) and Electronic Attack capability.

        Upon hearing that the HV-22 COD was in development, it gave
        me hope of a future pressurized V-22 variant which would be a boon for the COD mission, and give the Osprey the altitude needed for an AEW&C radar using Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) technology. Within many parts of the South Western Pacific an ESG will be well within land based support mechanisms so stop-gap measures are available until the organic capability can be developed and fielded.

        Just my 2₵.

        • Secundius

          @ Curtis Conway.

          EV-22C AEW/Osprey, three-way approach.
          1. Phalcon Phased-Array Pulse Doppler Conformal Radar.
          Best of the two, doesn’t interfere with Wing/Engine Folding System.
          2. Ericsson Erieye Phased-Array Pulse Doppler Microwave Radar. When wing folds for storage, antenna lowers but aligns with folded wing. Detail’s need to be worked out.
          3. A Tear-Drop antenna similar to E-1 Tracer…

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            SCS-75 design, capable of carrying ~30-Aircrafts, 37-Burden.

        • Secundius

          @ Curtis Conway.

          Just exactly how would you mount the “wedge” on a Osprey’s fuselage, it would interfere with the wing folding system…

  • DWinslow

    Too bad it doesn’t have a gun.

    • Secundius

      @ DWinslow.

      Originally all three models were to mount the Mauser BK-27 1.063-inch/27×145 single-barrel “revolver” Auto Cannon, rated a 1,700rpm. As a A-10 Warthog replacement.

      Currently the F/A-35A/C have a internally mounted GAU-22/A 0.984-inch/25x
      137mm four-barrel “Equalizer” rotary cannon, rated at 4,200rpm. The F/AV-35B carries a GAU-22/A 0.984-inch/25x137mm four-barrel “Equalizer” rotary cannon pod inside one of its weapons bays. For the F/AV-35, cannon is optional and is not normally carried…

  • SpazSinbad

    “…The Marine Corps will procure a total of 353 F-35Bs & 67 F-35Cs…” Marine Aviation Plan 2015

  • Pingback: F-35 on carriers | Allies For Cherry Point | Fleet Readiness Center East()