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.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.