There was an interesting moment last week as the National Defense Authorization Act was being voted on. An amendment, introduced by two Congressmen, would have terminated the F-35B program in favor of buying the Marine Corps more F/A 18s.
When the amendment reached the floor, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA) spoke out against the amendment:
He said the F-35B offers more capability than the F/A-18 and that cutting this variant would jeopardize the whole JSF program, for which there are several international partners.
He’s indeed correct. The capability the F-35B will offer the USMC is far superior to that offered by the F/A-18. That’s not to say the F/A-18 isn’t a fine fighter aircraft. But it is an aircraft whose days are numbers. It is already older than most of the pilots flying it.
The short deck take off and vertical landing ability of the F-35B actually increases the Marine Corps and Navy’s flexibility by utilizing the Navy’s LHD Wasp class ships, something the termination of the F-35B would have essentially killed. Using those decks as platforms for the aircraft give those services an exponential increase in capability.
Yesterday was an important moment in Congress. On a voice vote it rejected those that would substitute a fine but less capable aircraft for one that will vastly increase the capabilities of our future warfighters.
That’s a good thing.