New Special Report: The Integration of the F-35B into USMC Operations


2017-01-08 Our latest Special Report provides an update on the introduction and integration of the F-35B into evolving USMC operations. With the significant change introduced into the amphibious fleet and for USMC land based operations by the Osprey, the F-35 B is accelerating the transformation of the CORPS into a wide-ranging insertion force able to operate across the range of military operations.

The report begins with an update on the recent testing onboard the USS America with regard to the F-35B with the Osprey onboard as well. We then turn to insights provided from Yuma Marine Corps Air Station by MAWTS-1, and the two operational F-35 squadrons, which have been based there. The Green Knights or VMFA-121 is on the move to Japan and will go back to the origins, namely Pacific operations.

We will then conclude with a series of articles, which look at the impact of the integration of the Osprey and the F-35B on the sea base and the evolving strategic options, which are emerging along with the tactical innovations of the new force. The ampbhious ready group is being transformed into an amphibious task force, which is highly “Integratable” with air, and maritime based combat forces which together will shape what the US Navy leadership refers to as a kill web.

In short, although the F-35 is an innovative piece of combat technology it is its interaction with other key elements of innovation, which are opening up new capabilities and options for an integrated air and maritime force. And closely associated with the Marines in all of this is the UK, which is a core participant from the ground up in terms of integrating the F-35B with their new sea basing capabilities as well.

If there is a political will to build up the US Navy ship numbers, no better investment can be made than in the ampbhious fleet where the sea base is experiencing a revolution. Investment in new amphibious ships coupled with the investments in Ospreys, F-35s and CH-53Ks will provide US leaders with significantly expanded strategic flexibility and tactical operations.

As noted in one of the pieces included in the Special Report:

As Lt. General Davis, the Deputy Commandant of Aviation, put it onboard the USS America:

“We’d always say ‘if its really a bad air to air (A2A) threat, get some additional jets up there, get some more capability.’

I have no pause or hesitation that this jet will dominate in an A2A environment, would dominate in a strike environment, dominate in a CAS environment, and would also do a very nice job in an electronic warfare realm as well.”

Marines. At their mention I suspect most think, “storming the beaches.”  Amphibious vehicles first in, troops storm ashore.  That capability still exists, but today there is a far greater capability, one that will provide a vexing challenge for any adversary.

Already transformed by the mobility of the Osprey, the F-35B offers a critical upgrade to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) and amphibious assault.  The first wave is no longer limited to the beach or uncontested space, it can effectively reach locations 450 miles from the shipborne base – even in contested airspace.

What once came ashore like a wave, now comes as lightning strikes in a violent storm.

Marines on the beach, Marines from behind, and Marines within the adversary’s territory.  Marines striking swiftly with maximum effect to deal with high value targets, including terror cells – all with the stand alone capability to do so.

This is the “Aerial Amphibious Assault” Force, and these are the Marines of the 21st century battlespace.

It is a capability the US Marine Corps (USMC) has patiently and steadfastly build towards, and the pieces are coming together;

Integration with the US Navy LHA Class Amphibious Assault Carrier – The USS America & USS Tripoli (under construction). The LHA class offers enhanced dedicated support for Marine aviation assets.

MV-22B Osprey. The Osprey offers extended range and speed for troop insertion, as well as air to air refueling support.

Existing Attack Helicopters (UH-1Y Venom & AH-1Z Viper).

F-35B Lightning II. The F-35B replaces the AV-8B, F/A-18 Hornet & EA-6B Prowler. The aircraft offers exceptional performance Air to Air (A2A), Air to Ground (A2G), Close Air Support (CAS), Electronic Warfare (EW), Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) all with the capability to operate stealthily within contested areas.

CH-53K “King Stallion” When introduced (2019) the CH-53K will provide nearly 3x the heavy lift capability of the CH-53E.

The USS America (LHA-6) is a maritime base which provides unrivaled flexibility. 

Park it where you want in international waters.  Forward deploy it to a region for any contingency, and a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is at the ready.  The LHA platform is ideal for military operations involving troop insertion, (anti-terrorism activities) where the objective is to infiltrate, accomplish the mission and leave no boots behind on the ground.

The LHA offers the flexibility to adjust mix from heavy jet (F-35B) to heavy tiltrotor (MV-22B) or rotor wing. Utilizing the MV-22B and the F-35B, the USMC can effectively insert troops 450 miles from the ship in under 2 hours.

The platform offers the flexibility to work together with additional amphibious assault carriers (LHD) when amphibious vehicles are desired, as well as with the support of the USN Supercarrier.

Not a replacement for either, the LHA provides flexibility for the military to tailor a force most suitable for the mission at hand.

The photos in the slideshow are from the DTIII testing onboard the USS America in November 2016.

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