Home » Aviation » Stackley: Marines Set to Standup New F-35B Squadron in June


Stackley: Marines Set to Standup New F-35B Squadron in June

Navy's top acquisition official Sean Stackley testifies before the HASC on March, 23 2016. CSPAN Image

Navy’s top acquisition official Sean Stackley testifies before the HASC on March 23, 2016. CSPAN Image

The Navy’s top acquisition official told a key congressional panel Wednesday that “Marines absolutely love this aircraft” and expect to be fielding a new squadron of F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in June.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said the aircraft “was designed and built for the future, for high-end threat.”

As to the Marine squadron, it wasn’t immediately clear if Stackley was including the existing, non-deployable F-35B training squadron in his tally of three squadrons. The Marines said late last year they planned to field their third operational squadron sometime in 2018.

He added it was really a “false choice” to consider upgrading legacy aircraft instead of replacing them with the fifth-generation fighter that will be used by the Navy and Air Force, as well as the Marines.

The cost of keeping legacy aircraft flying “is hurting us today” and in some cases productions lines have slowed or closed and parts are not available.
Stackley did add the sea service will be flying a mixed fleet of fighters through the mid-2030s.

All the witnesses before the subcommittee said in various ways that the improvements in the past year “clearly reflect a program that is maturing” in holding down costs and improving repair, maintenance and availability. Its production rate in increasing through a combination of U.S. military builds, foreign military sales and delivery to allies who were production partners.
Like others, Stackley said the F-35 “is significantly more complex than the systems they are replacing” and production costs are higher than originally estimated in 2002.
The aircraft is “replacing or complementing a number of aircraft growing older,” Michael Sullivan, from the General Accountability Office, said. Its three variants are more versatile than the fourth-generation fighter, he added.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, JSF program executive officer, said, “The history of developing airplanes has been murky” and potentially fraught with unexpected problems. He cited the unexpected takeoff of the F-16 in its first flight as an example.
Because of rising costs and delays to overcome problems, including most recently the safety of the ejection system and radar screens going blank, Bogdan said, “We do have a perception problem” that needs to be overcome. He said the F-35 will be participating in air shows here and in Europe and the Marine Corps and the Navy will bring media aboard ships that carry the aircraft to talk about what it is expected and can do.

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1). US Navy Photo

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1). US Navy Photo

Addressing the ejection-seat safety issue, he mentioned three fixes expected to be in place by November: installing a switch to make adjustments for the pilot’s weight, re-examining the head support panel and reducing the weight of the pilot’s helmet.
He said the timing issue on the radar is also being worked, so that instead of having a blank screen every four hours it would rise to eight—with the goal of making even more rare an occurrence. Results are expected to be known in 30 days, he told the panel.

When asked whether the Pentagon should look to trying another joint aircraft program in the future, Bogdan said, “They are hard to do” because “sometimes it’s hard to meet all those requirements [from the services] outside of going to the lowest common denominator.”

The goal with the F-35 program in 2002 was 70 percent similarity in the three variants. Bogdan said that common engines and other shared parts would be useful in the future and hold costs down.
“Our beef on this has been the acquisition strategy” not the requirement for a next-generation strike fighter, Sullivan said of GAO’s reporting. In answer to a question on why there was a need to replace existing aircraft, he said, “I know Harriers are really old” and the F-35 has more capability.

  • Don Bacon

    why convert another Marine squadron from combat capable to ineffective by equipping them with useless faulty F-35 prototypes? Makes no sense. Then the Marines will complain that they need more money to promote readiness.

    • ArmChairGeneral

      Oh for heavens sake, these jets are huge upgrades for the marines. The reason you add to another squadron is to train more pilots and maintenance crew.

      • Don Bacon

        In Gilmore’s recent testimony to Congress:
        “As mentioned in my annual report, if used in combat, the Block 2B F-35 will need support from command and control elements to avoid threats, assist in target acquisition, and control weapon employment for the limited weapons carriage available (i.e., two bombs and two air-to-air missiles). Block 2B deficiencies in fusion, Electronic Warfare, and weapons employment result in ambiguous threat displays, limited ability to respond to threats, and a requirement for off-board sources to provide accurate coordinates for precision attack.

        “Fuel and weapons limitations also affect F -35 CAS performance. For example, an F-35B, assuming a 250-nautical mile ingress to a CAS area contact point, would have only approximately 20 – 30 minutes to coordinate with the controller, assess the tactical situation and execute an attack using its two air-to-surface weapons before needing to depart for fuel. By comparison, an Air Force A-10 would have approximately one and one half hours of time in the CAS area under the same conditions, but would be able to autonomously acquire and identify targets, while using datalink to receive and/or pass target and situational awareness information.”

        That’s only part of the problem, which is why the current JSF-equipped Marine squadron won’t be found anywhere near Indian country, for a long time to come.

        • ArmChairGeneral

          Who cares about block 2b? That software is on its way out so the bugs are pointless. Don, you are Russian and you are scared, I get it. I would be scared too if our enemy had this jet.

          • Don Bacon

            You don’t care about Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at Yuma, which is now unable to attack anyone with 2B?

    • James B.

      The F-35, even as buggy as it is, is still more reliable than Harriers or early-build legacy Hornets. That the Marines are happy to switch over is not surprising.

      • johnbull

        Good point, anyone else remember the Harriers in the mid-late 70s? They had numerous crashes, one only a half mile from my house. Yet they ended up being very useful aircraft.

      • Don Bacon

        Marines have been ordered to be happy with the useless F-35B. Harriers are currently in combat, flying off the Kearsage in the ME, something the Marine aviators in Yuma can only dream about.
        On reliability, more from Gilmore’s testimony–
        — Although measurements of aircraft reliability, maintainability, and availability have shown some improvement over the last two years, sustainment relies heavily on contractor support, intense supply support to arrange the flow of spare parts, and workarounds by maintenance and operational personnel that will not be acceptable in combat.
        and from a recent GAO report–
        — While Pratt & Whitney has implemented a number of design changes that have resulted in significant reliability improvements, the F-35A and F-35B engines are still at about 55 percent and 63 percent, respectively, of where the program expected them to be at this point.

        • Curtis Conway

          Don, I dare you to say that to a Marine F-35B pilots face.

          • Don Bacon

            Well perhaps “ordered” is a bit strong, Curtis, so how about encouraged to support the program one hundred and ten percent? As in, go along to get along, which everyone about E-5/O-5 up learns intuitively, especially with command programs involving new acquisitions. A service pilot who doesn’t fully support F-35 might find that pilots are needed in Greenland, or its Marine equivalent. Even the pilots in Yuma support it! There must be somewhere worse than the hot desert lettuce capital of the southwest. Besides, I have generally found Marines to be quite reasonable, like my mentor Smedley Butler for example (see my avatar).

          • Uniform223

            he can’t and wont because he is a pure chicken fecal matter

      • muzzleloader

        To your point about the legacy Hornets, I can tell you that the artisans at the Aviation Depot in Jacksonville have their plate running over with work in keeping those C+D airframes flying. The Naval Aviation service very much needs the F-25 online so these 30 + year old airframes can be sent to the desert.

  • Don Bacon

    In case anyone is wondering why Stackley and Bogdan always appear together at these congressional events, it’s … a little weird. General Bogdan, JPO Executive Officer, reports (nominally) to the Service Acquisition Executive (SAE) Sean Stackley. There was a joint statement by #1 Stackley and #2 Bogdan, plus Q&A, with Stackley appearing in his JSF (fake) top-dog capacity and not his Navy position. So XO’s take heart, if you ever get to the Pentagon you may rule.

  • patriot196

    There are some points worth noting on both sides of this discussion, but first and foremost, this jet was not intended to be an air superiority fighter. It is an attack aircraft, that was designed to be hard to detect, like a mosquito, it comes in unseen and zap your bitten. It also wasn’t meant to “linger” over the battlefield like an A-10, as it is not armored like an A-10, it is supposed to be a ghost, there one minute and gone the next with no clue as to where it went. Now Lockheed may have been pushed to get something in the air before all of the bugs are worked out, this is true, but with new technology come “hiccups”. But show me an A-10, which I like, or a harrier that has the stealth, or helmet technology, or performance. Everybody whines about the flight performance, well a lot of the flight characteristics and performance of this aircraft are classified, to include rate of climb. See if anyone can find any videos anywhere, of an F-35 climbing straight off the ground(?)…yes, classified. Then people say it is a “turkey” because one of the early models lost a dogfight against an F-16, yet, we don’t know if it “really” did or not, as I believe the F-35 is capable of a lot more than is being seen, discussed, or admitted to, and if that is true, I support that 100% as I am tired of all of the performance characteristics and capabilities of our military weapons being given away or discussed on every mass media outlet in existance.

  • Aussie Andrew

    Try not to land on Iranian ships by mistake; should carry an Air force navigator as well as a pilot really; marines not the best navigators in the Persian Gulf.

  • PRONESE

    Question: Is the Marine F-35 capable and simple enough to be operated at the FEBA with minimal ground support?