OKINAWA, Japan -- The world’s first supersonic short-take-off, vertical-landing aircraft just landed in the Pacific this month, launching the Marine Corps into a new era of expeditionary aviation.
Brig. Gen. John M. Jansen, the deputy commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, expects the new F-35B Lightning II to provide new dimensions of range, speed, stealth and lethality to commanders throughout III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The F-35B, which is set to replace the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet, and EA-6B Prowler, is also versatile. It takes off and lands vertically like a Harrier while outclassing the Hornet in air-to-air-combat and building upon the Prowlers capabilities in electronic warfare.
“If we don’t have an airplane like the F-35 that can survive on modern battlefields, we cannot deliver to the MAGTF commander -- we cannot deliver to the 19 year-old Marine infantryman on the ground -- that which is required to succeed in combat,” said Jansen, who is watching the F-35B phase out the Hornets he once piloted. “So, this F-35 is critical to our success.”
As the forward-deployed force-in-readiness in the Pacific theater, III MEF will be able to better support their regional partners during crisis by enabling their forces to perform a wide range of missions across multiple domains, he explained.
“We have dominated the skies since World War II,” added Jansen, a native of Indianapolis. “The Marine Corps needs the F-35 because we need to maintain an area that we have had strategic overmatch with our adversaries for the last 70 years. It’s every bit essential that we have that kind of capability in a modern war.”
By integrating the F-35B, which can take off and land vertically from naval vessels, the Marine Corps is strengthening its partnership with the Navy, a priority of Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
“The [Marine Corps Operating Concept] MOC embraces our naval character, expeditionary mindset, and professional approach to constantly improve and build on our foundations of maneuver warfare and fighting as a combined arms force,” said Neller. “The challenges of the future will impact how we organize our Corps and ultimately fight our nation’s battles.”
This multirole combat fighter is intended to bring true service interoperability by strengthening international cooperation and allowing for improved communication among allies. The F-35 is able to accomplish this by using a combination of stealth, electronic warfare and information sharing capabilities.
With ten other allied nations slated to receive the F-35, it will be the backbone of future air operations. The first F-35A for Japan was presented Sept. 23, 2016.
"The relationship between two allies in a military venue can be defined by our interoperability," said Jansen. "We have an obligation for mutual defense; that if they are in trouble we will come help them and if we're in trouble they can come help us. So we have to be able to have the same type of equipment; equipment that can talk to each other, equipment that can seamlessly operate as one unitary force. That interoperability piece is huge."