As with most new military hardware, the F-35’s development has been controversial, well over budget and a long time in the making. Things have not been easy along the way as the aircraft has seen its share of changes, had to overcome a few design obstacles and also had to survive attacks from those who did not think it could capably fulfill the multi-functional roles it was built to perform. Soon we will find out, as it looks like the aircraft is poised to take its place among other active duty squadrons.
The Marine Corps are scheduled to make operational their first full time F-35 squadron in July of this year. It will be a welcome addition for a branch of the military service that is in desperate need of a multi-function, modern and dual role aircraft. It will be the first new short take-off and vertical-landing (VSTOL) aircraft that branch of the service has seen since the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II jump jet went operational in 1985.
The Air Force is expected to be right behind the Marines, as they are scheduled to make their first F-35 squadrons operational in August of this year. That is just the first small step towards integrating them into a full time role in the armed services.
The F-35C Lightning II first went to the design table in 2001 and its first flight was in 2006. The design premise for the aircraft was that it was intended to serve three major services (Air Force, Navy and the Marines) and do it in a way that 80% of the parts were interchangeable between the three design variants. This was meant to keep both production and maintenance costs to a minimum. The aircraft was designed to fill both air supremacy, ground attack and other roles that they would take over from such aging airframes as the F-16, A-10 and AV-8B.
The next step in the aircraft’s progression is transitioning from the design and testing phase to those of real world battle scenarios. This will come very soon in a military exercise called “Green Flag West.” This exercise is designed to train and test the U.S. military’s ability to engage in what are known as air-to-surface conflicts. It teaches the ground troops to coordinate strikes with the aircraft flying overhead. It will be a big test for the aircraft’s advanced electronic and sensor equipment.
The design of a large number of the aircraft’s sensors is still not complete and, along with the aircraft’s initial weight, was one of the main reasons for big cost overruns and production delays as the aircraft was redesigned. These types of things have put a lot of political pressure on the project and brought into question the aircraft’s ability to meet the needs of what it was designed to do. A successful showing in the upcoming military exercise may be just what the F-35 program needs to silence its many critics. We will start to get some long awaited answers to that question over the next few months as the squadrons become operational and are tested in more of an actual combat role.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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