Marines will Buy F-35 Carrier Variant, Too

The Marine Corps announced for the first time that it will procure some number of F-35C strike fighters in addition to the F-35Bs it wants. Commandant Gen. James Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the Corps hasn’t given up on the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft and it remains the service’s “primary focus.” But he acknowledged that it would be “prudent” to buy some F-35Cs “early on” to keep Navy and Marine Corps tactical aircraft integration alive as the Corps transitions from the F/A-18 to the new F-35 design and officials ascertain whether the F-35B can effectively operate from large-deck aircraft carriers. The F-35C, which the Navy plans to buy in large numbers, is optimized for that role. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January placed F-35B development on a two-year “probation.” If engineers cannot overcome developmental challenges, Gates said the B model would face cancellation.