The Marine Corps is sending the F-35 to the Pacific and Middle East.
U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY SGT. APRIL L. PRICE
By Kyle Mizokami
Dec 28, 2017
The America’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, might finally see combat in 2018. According to the Marine Corps Times, the U.S. Marine Corps is sending the jet on two overseas patrols next year, to the Middle East and the Pacific. The Middle Eastern tour could see the jet sent into combat over a number of regional conflicts the United States is currently embroiled in.
The Marines are sending detachments of F-35Bs on two Marine Expeditionary Unit cruises, with the Okinawa, Japan-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on the USS Wasp and the West Coast-based 13th MEU on the USS Essex. USS Wasp will be headed into the Asia-Pacific, where one possible stop is off the coast of North Korea. USS Essex will be headed to the Middle East where it could visit Syria/Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. U.S. aircraft have conducted airstrikes over all three areas, and the F-35Bs of the 13th MEU could conduct some of their own.
Marine Expeditionary Units are unique self-contained combat units capable of air and ground missions that travel in amphibious task forces. A typical MEU consists of approximately 2,200 marines and sailors and is centered around a marine infantry battalion reinforced with tanks, light armored vehicles, artillery, engineering, communications, medical, and logistics support units. A MEU also typically embarks up to 30 aircraft, including F-35s, MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53 Sea Stallions, AH-1Z attack helicopters, and UH-1Y Huey utility aircraft. Previously, MEUs embarked about six AV-8B Harrier jump jets per cruise, and it’s likely each will sport the same number of F-35Bs.
Aside from scheduled training missions, MEUs sometimes have no agenda at all other than to provide a roving, battalion-sized rapid-reaction force capable of showing the flag, amphibious assaults, raids, conventional and unconventional land warfare operations, rescues of downed pilots, evacuating Americans from crisis areas, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions. MEUs are basically packages of heavily armed Marines that cruise around in amphibious ships for months at a time looking for trouble.
The Marines declared its F-35B jets initial operational capability in 2015, meaning the aircraft were capable of at least some of the range of combat missions the aircraft will eventually be capable of. For ground attack missions, the F-35B is armed with the 1,000 pound GBU-32 satellite-guided Joint Directed Attack Munition (JDAM) and the 500 pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb. For air combat, it carries AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles.
Read more at Marine Corps Times