Marines Would Save $1B If F-35 Entered Service Faster; F-18 Hornets Struggling To Stay Mission-Ready

U.S. Naval Institute News // March 28, 2017

The Marine Corps could save about a billion dollars, reduce risk for pilots seeing too few flight hours each month and bring additional high-end capability to the fleet if the service were able to buy its F-35B and C Joint Strike Fighters at a faster pace, the deputy commandant for aviation said on Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said at a House Armed Services tactical air and land subcommittee hearing the Marine Corps ought to be buying several more airplanes a year than is currently in the Pentagon budget, to help move to the new planes faster and retire legacy F/A-18 Hornets – which are struggling to get flight-ready in the first place and then more often than not break after just one sortie.

“That’s the number-one thing I could ask from this committee is to keep that recapitalization on track, to get us into those next-generation strike fighters as soon as we can,” Davis told lawmakers.

Davis and other Marine Corps officials have long called the current F-35B acquisition rate “anemic.” Current plans call for the Marines buying 16, 20, 20, 20 and 21 F-35Bs a year from Fiscal Year 2017 to 2021. Davis said he needs to boost that to 19, 23, 23, 23 and 30.

That higher rate, he told the subcommittee, “allows me to get out of F-18 – vice trying to take that (Hornet fleet) to 2030, push that left to 2025, 2026. If there’s one thing I could ask on the TACAIR side for the United States Marine Corps, besides funding our enabler accounts, would be those new airplanes. That would help us the most.”

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