F-35 flies into service

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter instructor pilots from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. navigate their aircraft toward an Air Force Reserve KC-135 Stratotanker from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron, March ARB, Calif., May 16, 2013 off the coast of Northwest Florida. The 33rd Fighter Wing is a joint graduate flying and maintenance training wing that trains Air Force, Marine, Navy and international partner operators and maintainers of the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo, Sr./RELEASED) DIGITAL
The U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pulls up behind a KC-135 tanker for a quick refueling stop. The aircraft`s versatility allows it to perform like a conventional fighter while retaining its technological leverage.   

From Wikimedia Commons.


The JSF’s recent introduction into service has brought much controversy, with many stating that it lacks the capabilities to replace its predecessors. But it is starting to make an appearance in the United States Marine Corps after several years late and billions over budget.

Scott Beyer, a test pilot for the program, believes that this new aircraft will add an entirely new dimension of capability to the USMC.

“This is a major step in aviation technology for the Marine Corps,” said Beyer. “The F-35 will be able to accomplish tasks that are currently impossible for the USMC to achieve.”

Not everyone agrees with Beyer. Current F/A-18 pilot Ryan Vogel believes the F-35 to be a sinkhole of Marine Corps funds.

“Currently, our F/A-18 line of craft are sufficient to fight [modern], and future threats anywhere within the next twenty years,” said Vogel. “The F-35 is an aircraft that the [USMC] simply doesn’t have a need for at this current time.”

Also, Vogel thinks that the F-35’s entry into service will have a negative impact on the Boeing company.

“Boeing is the primary producer of the F/A-18,” said Vogel, “and without aircraft orders Boeing will have to close its F/A-18 production line, which would put the company into a great deal of trouble, the ripples of which would certainly be felt here in Seattle.”

Vogel believes that the retirement of the F/A-18 series, and many other Boeing military craft, may put greater emphasis on Boeing’s commercial market, which would have a positive impact on jobs in Seattle.

“Boeing has not been doing too well in the military market as of recently,” said Vogel, “but that

may be a good thing for Boeing employees here in Seattle, as Boeing would start to focus more on its commercial products as a result.”

Russian Naval Aviator Vasiliy Fofanov believes Vogel’s claim to be short-sighted, and thinks that the USMC is currently unable to compete with modern foreign aircraft.

“With [Russia’s] increase in military spending the United States Marine Corps is ill-equipped to face off against [Russia’s] own naval aircraft,” said Fofanov. “the F/A-18 is an excellent design, but is no longer adequate to face off against modern Russian aircraft.”

Beyer also thinks that the F-35 is an aircraft that the USMC desperately needs.

“The Marine Corps has been using the same airframe for the last 35+ years,” said Beyer. “Since then new technologies and innovative designs have come along, and the F-35 is the result of the combination of those technologies.”

Vogel proposes that the F-35 should only come into service once all of its bugs are worked out, and suggests that current aircraft get upgraded to a more modern standard in the meantime.

“The USMC should start upgrading its F/A-18s with newer technologies in order to remain competitive in today’s battlefield,” said Vogel. “That way, the USMC can remain viable in the air while not having to deal with all of the issues that the F-35 is currently plagued with.”

Vogel also believes that upgrading the F/A-18 and AV-8 series of aircraft would be a far more cost-efficient and effective solution to USMC’s aviation deficiency.

“The F-35 is a very expensive aircraft,” said Vogel, “but upgrading the current fleet of aircraft would cost far less and be far more effective for what the USMC is looking for in an aircraft.”

Whether an upgraded F/A-18 would fit the requirement of a USMC aircraft better than the F-35 is still to be seen, but there is no doubt that Boeing will do all that it can to market F/A-18 upgrades and enhancements so to not lose one of its primary military customers.

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