The F-35 and the USN’s Carrier Shortage


By Adm. James A. Lyons

Monday, January 28, 2013

Excerpts from Washington Times Op Ed

The U.S. Navy, operating with too few carriers, now has a forward-deployment dilemma….

With the four-year overhaul of the USS Abraham Lincoln, combined with the delay of the USS Gerald Ford, the Navy will still require additional deployment flexibility. The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35 fifth-generation aircraft could possibly provide such flexibility.

In today’s unsettled environment, the potential of the F-35 — with its sophisticated electronic performance, plus stealth and optics that can see a missile 200 miles away — has an extraordinary capability.

It is possible to deploy multiple F-35 radars, which then could provide added flexibility by permitting Airborne Warning and Control System coverage elsewhere. The F-35B short takeoff version would provide greatly needed employment flexibility for the Navy’s Amphibious Forces…..

The Marine F-35B short takeoff version offers the option of turning the Navy’s 10 amphibious landing helicopter dock ships into mobile airbases with a fifth-generation combat aircraft.

Clearly, the F-35 offers the Navy much more forward-deployment flexibility than it now enjoys. More importantly, it has the potential to change the strategic balance in certain areas.

Further, it will give our allies such as Japan, South Korea and Australia the option to more effectively develop their own naval airpower to counter China’s aggressive actions in the Western Pacific. Taiwan also needs the F-35B, as it is more survivable in the face of China’s growing missile threat to the island democracy.

In the tight fiscal climate facing all services, pressure will build to seriously reduce or eliminate some critical programs. Sequestration will only compound the problem. It is critical that the resources necessary to achieve long-term U.S. objectives be protected. Now is not the time to go “wobbly” on the JSF F-35 program.

Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

On the F-35B and power projection see the following: