Wednesday, August 31, 2016

For F-35’s First Deployment, Marines Plan ‘School of Hard Knocks’

The F-35’s first deployment next year will help the Marine Corps discover what still needs fixing with the new fifth-generation jet, and where to go in the future, Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh told reporters Tuesday.
Not only will the Marines be the first force to deploy the Lockheed Martin jet in an operational context—aboard the USS Wasp next year—it will deploy a second contingent soon after, this one aboard the USS Essex.
“We will learn from that, and see what capabilities we need to further develop,” said Walsh, the commanding general of the Marines’ Combat Development Command. “A lot of it’s going to be the school of hard knocks.”
The Marines will begin moving 16 F-35Bs to Iwakuni Air Station in Japan early next year. The jets will deploy as part of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 in early 2017, a Marine spokeswoman said. At year’s end, six of that squadron’s planes will attach to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. 
In the 31st MEU, VMFA-121 will link up with the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, a regiment charged with being the “experimental force” of the Marines for its two years in the expeditionary force, Walsh said. It’s an apt pairing, given that the F-35’s first deployment will be a testing field for the plane’s capabilities—and numerous issues with weapons and software.  more