Amos: Marines May Buy Some F-35Cs

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos confirmed today that the Marines are looking to operate some F-35C carrier variant Joint Strike Fighters. This is a big deal. If the Marines buy the C, it will solidify the future of fixed wing tactical jets in the Corps if the troubled B-model gets axed. It also shows that Marine Corps aviators will keep flying long-legged (I mean long-range) strike jets off big deck aircraft carriers for the foreseeable future.

From sister site DoDBuzz:

The commandant confirmed that the Marines were looking at buying some F-35Cs, the carrier variant, to keep their hands in on carrier operations. Amos said it wasn’t clear yet whether F-35Bs will operate from carriers, which is almost certain to be the result of the combination of great thrust and heat from the plane’s engines, something that has worried testers for some time.   The Marines have been making modifications to the plane’s power plant that are supposed to ameliorate the problem, but Amos’ comments today seem to indicate they are not confident in whether they will work. Amos did not offer any numbers.

I wrote this article back in November about the Marines pulling out of the B program and purchasing C-model jets. The big question is; is the B’s ability to fly off small deck ships and small bases really worth the cost and schedule delays associated with the program? How much of an advantage does STOVL give the Corps? How many times have the V/STOL abilities of the AV-8B Harrier fleet proven critical in that jet’s decades of service?

It’s still unclear how many of the 680 jets purchased for the Navy and Marines will be B versus C model JSFs.


  • Lance

    Thats good I say keep AV-8Bs in service replace the old F-18s and EA-6Bs in service since harriers can be used for years longer.

    • blight

      In happyworld figuring out a way to re-engine the Harrier (traditional sore point of Harrier) would be the way to go. However, it would be ridiculously expensive to implement. If it could be done, though…

  • brian

    Killing Marine Tactical Aviation was never so easy

    • blight

      Marine aviation may have to surrender to the combined arms idea of operating Marine wings off a Navy carrier in conjunction with amphibious craft.

      Alternatively, designing supercarrier-sized LPD’s for the Marines…

      • Supercarrier-scale LPDs for the Marines?

        Yeah, maybe we can get the Air Force a couple space stations, too :P

      • asdf

        or an X2 with weapons outfitted

    • jose

      Where have you been . Combined Arms is the future.

  • Rick

    I see that Marine F-18 squadrons are already a part of several active air wings that serve aircraft carriers.
    How does this possible buy change anything?

  • Joe Schmoe


    About time we saw some common sense from the Marines.

  • Belesari

    Why dont they just try to make a AV-8 2.0

    Nothing huge as far as stealth make it a F-18 with STOL.

    Hell use that huge damn engine.

    • blight

      Is “Huge damn engine” supposed to be the Pegasus? In many ways LM won because the lift-fan concept was superior to the Boeing one, which was probably more Harrier-esque.

      I don’t know if Hawker is even interested in VTOLs anymore…not with JSF on the horizon and potentially sucking away customers.

  • SMSgt Mac

    The fascinating thing with this post is that it focuses on the throwaway paragraph at the end of the original source instead of what was the main theme of the ‘Buzz’ post, which was the ttile announced as: ” ‘I’m Optimistic’ On F-35B: Gen. Amos”. the main point of the ‘news’ is that Amos woul like to shorten the B model ‘probation’ based on progress made. The Marines will do what they think they need to do, whether it is buy F-35Bs for their mission or F-35Cs for whatever reason – mission or political.

  • Black Owl

    They should just buy the F/A-18E/F and stop delaying the inevitable.

    Or better yet, buy the Super Hornet with international road map upgrades and get nearly the same stealth capability of an F-35 with twice the bang for the buck.

  • Benjamin

    In most major combat in the future we should expect our air field to be taken out by missile strikes. The only aircraft that will be effective in this situation is a vertical take off aircraft. If we stay with the F-35B, I am willing to bet the Japan and Taiwan will eventually buy it in numbers equal to our own.

    • Sev

      Well duh. For all the peple who disagree are you saying that you wouldnt attack an enemy airfield to cripple their air defence?

    • What hypothetical scenario do you envision in which F-35Bs can take off from damaged / austere airfields and still reach a target on one tank of gas? Isn’t it a better idea to use resources to make those airfields survivable?

      There wouldn’t be *that* many F-35Bs, even in a full scale buy..

      • asdf

        35B is not a vertical take-off aircraft.

        • What’s your point? The F-35B is going to pull a short takeoff from Japan, fly all the way to China, and then make it back on one tank? If you’re assuming that airbases are crippled, then you have to subsequently assume that tanking is unavailable..

    • blight

      With that logic we would leap to giant airship sky-carriers carrying helicopters with nuclear payloads as a new member of the strategic triad.

      Alternatively, long-range helicopters, but it’s hard to get long range at lower altitudes….

  • Mr D

    I would have thought that the recent crisis in Libya/Egypt/and whatever comes next, might prove to a certain extent that having smaller ships with the B variant are valuable. All this talk of not needing vtol and not requiring stealth really seems to have been proven wrong. Not to say that the B variant will be 100% protected from air defense or fully capable for SEAD, but since the Marines are the 911 force, it would seem like in situations where you would need strikes or air cover in the vicinity of air defense, the B variant is quite necessary unless your ready to commit a carrier. And for small operations like evacuations or limited air strikes, that seems unnecessary.

    As for the purchase of the C variant, i think it’s a good idea, if you’re going to operate it from a carrier, you might as well have 100% parts commonality with the navy.

  • Mike

    Another possibility would be of the US Marines to ask the DoD for the development of a sub-sonic attack helicopter based on the Sikorsky X2; but unlike the Apache, the X2 would be like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II with internal weapons bay to keep the radar cross section as low as possible.

    • Joe Schmoe

      You mean like the RAH-66?

      • blight

        Navalized Comanche?

      • asdf

        there is actually no point in stealthing the helicopters, even without regards to costs.
        think about why.

    • frinklemur

      I was wondering about this being a potential option at some point as well if the F-35B gets canceled. Obviously the X2- critters would only have modest A2A-self defense ability, having to use BVRAAMS from low-altitude, but given that it is unlikely that a Marine Amphibious Warfare group would be deployed in a region with a real threat of opposition aircraft, without a big carrier or USAF coverage it might make sense.

      Marine Combat Aviation would then be composed of the X-2ish strike copters on the little flat-tops and forward deployed, with Marine Fixed Wing on the big flat-tops and more distant airbases.

  • Oblat

    So having screwed up the entire design of the F-35 by insisting on a STVOL version the marines cant work out if they actually need it.

    • Jacob

      I’m thinking it was one of those “nice-to-haves” to begin with….

    • Connect
    • Old_Bear


    • AmicusCuriae

      Affirmative, but it was the keystone to get the F-35 program sold. The “Mission X – gee whiz” factor was hard to resist for all those that were not burned by historical VTOL or STOVL failures. It is expendable now though because the F-35 program is too big to fail, and STOVL is indefensible on a cost /benefit basis.

  • Curt

    The department of the Navy has always said it will buy a mix of F-35Bs and F-35Cs but has never specified the mix although the USMC has wanted an all F-35B force. However, as part of the rationalization of USN and USMC assets, USN F-18 squadrons were decommissioned and USMC F-18 squadrons have been attached to virtually every CVW. If it is too difficult to operate F-35Bs alongside the other aircraft on the carriers, which appears to be the case, then the USMC will need to operate the F-35C or those squadrons will need to be disbanded and more USN F-35C squadrons stood up. This has been understood for years. My guess, USMC F-35Cs will replace F-18 squadrons attached to a CVW and F-35Bs will replace everything else.

  • Curt

    “How much of an advantage does STOVL give the Corps? How many times have the V/STOL abilities of the AV-8B Harrier fleet proven critical in that jet’s decades of service?”
    In Gulf War 1, 20 USMC Harriers were very successfully based on an LHA in the NAG, shortening flight time from nearest available field and eliminating use of tankers. In Gulf War II, they repeated the result with 40 Harriers on 2 LHDs with similiar outstanding results.
    In Gulf War I, they also based harriers out of a 4000′ runway near a soccer stadium close to the Kuwait border for 8 months achieving much of the same benefit, and utilized FOB near Bagdad on a damaged airfield unusable by other aircraft and have operated from a 4300′ expeditionary runway in Afghanistan.
    So they have used the capability and derived significant advantages as a result. Hard to quantify what it is worth though.

  • Brian

    The F-35B program should stay intact. The C program keeps the Marine Corps in the TACAIR business, but must keep the F-35B program moving to provide the 5th Generation aircraft. If you look at the QDR and other planning documents, the F-35B is needed because the lack of runways that the C model can utilize in regions of the world that conflicts are predicted to arise. The Marine Corps needs to have the capability to operate ashore at the battle and not have to fly from another country or a carrier far away.

  • Old_Bear


    You could build a V/STOL aircraft easily, you just design the airframe & engine system properly, instead of trying to convert a CTOL airframe and engine.
    That is the crux of the problem with the Bunter, Lockhead Martin made the same mistake that designers back in the late 1950’s did of trying convert CTOL aitframes into V/STOL aircraft and failed.
    What they have come up with is an overcomplicated design that doesn’t work.
    The main practical way of building a V/STOL aircraft is to design an engine like the Peagus as V/STOL engine and then build an aircraft around it.
    The only practical thing to do about the F-35 programme is to scrap the Bunter and the Charlie and concentrate on fixing the design flaws of the Alpha, that and rename it as the A-35.

  • tyribulationtime

    I´ agree with Bear. VTOL plane…. Myth Busted!!!. A) fly close support for anfibious A1 No one expect much assaults from the SEA. A2 so more cheap and yet useful for that role modernize AV-8B because you Never Never try so operation over a coastline where need stealth planes but you depleted ammo stores of enemy. B) If you can not built planes which take-off on short runaway…man built long runaway, I means (I not engineer, I big mouth who dare to give his opinion as if was important) Try adopt all “tricks” around the world to make F-35C needed for conventional airports. Big wheels, and new landing gear, protections on intakes, redesigned flaps, a bit powerfull afterburning, Mobile arresting wire, mobile Ski-jump (I remember something like that on a pic in Harrier tests), or “catapults”. I think that is worst but more cheap to try.

  • ????

    Last time I checked the Marines dont keep harriers at FOB’s they keep them on ships and airbases with long runways that support cargo planes.. so whats the big freakin deal if the Marines dont have a VTOL aircraft.. ??? The Navy and Airforce dont use harriers and yet they still seem to be getting the same CAS and attack/defense jobs done that harriers can do.. so why do we really need the B model?? the A and C models seem suited just fine to get the job done and are pretty much ready to go now so why keep holding out for the B… ??

    • Curt

      As pointed out above, the USMC used Harriers at a FOB in Iraq, in combat, in OIF, so obviously you haven’t checked recently. For that matter, they even operated off roads a few times. While they didn’t normally stay at the FOB, they re-armed and refueled there dramatically increasing the time on station and timeliness of response compared to USAF and Navy aircraft. They operated Harriers from ships that require STOVL aircraft and provided more timely support, longer time on station , and didn’t use tankers. Those are just the facts, and no amount of pontification or hand waving changes that.

  • Old_Bear


    Please note the following story on the Flight International Website:

    I have one comment on the story: “Double Ouch” or if you are of Scottish descent “Ouch Squared”.

  • robertro2


  • 6591 USMC

    The Marines already operate Hornets including Super Hornets. This is nothing new. They were never looking to become a one plane air force. The only problem with the B is it is a more difficult and expensive technology and the heat and force from the engines is problematical on some steel decks as it was with the original AV-8A and since.

    The Marines have always done more with less when they had to, taken the lead as they have since the beginning of naval aviation and usually out strategized the other services. They’ve had to as the Army has been trying to kill them since the early 1900s and the Air Force since the end of WWI.

    But the Marines have always survived despite the odds and have always been the first to try new and controversial things that make sense for their role in DOD.

    And they will continue to do so in the future.