The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is in trouble with it’s fighter roadmap. Too bad we don’t have the right leadership in the form of the top Marine to understand what is going on.
Gen. James Amos, the new commandant of the USMC, tries to justify the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the USMC and in doing so comes up with weak arguments and even cliché.
Don’t believe him. He is wrong.
Let us look at some of the arguments he brings forward in trying to sell the USMC F-35B to the American public.
First he brings up the obvious, the USMC (just like other services) will have to make some tough budget choices soon.
But the most important weapon system for the USMC isn’t an aircraft or ship. It is the Marine. Without taking care of that to the utmost, there is no reason for a United States Marine Corps.
The F-35 is not that critical for the reason why America needs the USMC.
The Commandant says there is no plan-B with the F-35. This is not true. The USMC has done great things well before 1974; the year the short take-off and vertical landing Harrier came into service.
The Commandant is also wrong about sea power. Flat-deck amphibs carrying a small handful of limited-use heavy fighters is nothing more than a target that has to be protected to the nth degree because it carries lots of Marines. These class of ships are not and never can; rise to the performance of a dedicated aircraft carrier. The Commandant’s argument about amphibs being a mini-aircraft carrier in the traditional sense is wishful thinking. These amphibs in any serious war need real aircraft carriers, land-based air-refueling assets, AWACs and other purpose-built aviation support in quantity. Marine amphibs are fine for carrying helicopters, boats and Marines and that is about it. They are not aircraft carriers the way the Commandant would hope his audience believes.
Treat the following quote from the Commandant with as much contempt as needed. It makes no sense.
“If the F-35B doesn’t make it, for whatever reason, then our nation is going to have only 11 Navy aircraft carriers with fifth generation airplanes, instead of 22 (ships).
Worse is the Commandant doesn’t mention important things like the fact that there isn’t a deck that will take the F-35, and that it will need 7 tons of gas for every sortie. This is even more trouble when discussing the cause. That being the fantasy of having these aircraft close to enemy lines using their alleged STOVL ability; where they would be a huge logistics and force protection drain. Enemy mortars and artillery could put these over $200 million apiece white elephants into so much junk at a bare base.
Here is another point when discussing air power issues, the Commandant is part of the problem and not part of the solution.
“The forecast is we save a billion dollars a year just by having one kind of airplane instead of three different kinds,” he said. “We ended up putting all of our money and all of our hopes into the F-35B.”
Jesus on an EFV we are in trouble.
The top brass in the USMC need to alter their attitude and realize it isn’t all about them. Marine fast jet air power flying from big aircraft carriers–of which there will be plenty of parking space—will offer the fast-jet firepower needed. That is most likely; something in the form of a Block II Super Hornet.
The Commandant also ignores UAVs/UCAVs in the style of what Army Aviation is doing today, and; precision artillery.
One air power event where the Marines shine is the recent fielding of the Harvest Hawk multi-functional C-130. Given the rest of the USMC air power roadmap, we can only see this as fluke in planning.
It is now time for the USMC to change and get their air power act together. Stop wasting America’s money on stupid pet theories. We can’t afford them and we can’t afford the kind of flawed thinking Gen. Amos proposes. It will be interesting to see if his kind of leadership—not having a plan-B and all—can adapt to the dying sounds of gold-plated and faulty weapons programs.