FighterSweep Fans, we have new but not expected news coming out of Headquarters Marine Corps. As we’ve anticipated, since the F-35B reached Initial Operational Capability last summer, the Corps’ newest aircraft is gearing up for a deployment in the fall of 2017. The full scope of the movement hasn’t been released, by early indications the STOVL version of the Joint Strike Fighter will be visiting the WESTern PACific (WESTPAC) theater first.
The F-35B jump-jet stealth fighter will deploy aboard an amphibious flattop, enhancing its combat might, and the service is planning a more powerful escort force to support it, according to Adm. Scott Swift, head of Pacific Fleet.
The F-35B was declared operational in July 2015 and testing continues ahead of next year’s debut. PACFLT spokesman Lt. Clint Ramsden confirmed it would be the aircraft’s first time to be based aboard a ship for a deployment, which typically lasts from a few months up to an eight-month cruise.
A surface action group [SAG], like the three-destroyer group dispatched mid-April to the Western Pacific, will defend the amphibious assault ship.
The concept was rolled out by Adm. Scott Swift during an April 26 all-hands call on the destroyer Momsen, which was docked in Hawaii on a port visit.
“I think this is going to revolutionize where we are with expeditionary strike groups [ESG],” Swift said. “The three-ship PAC SAG that [destroyers] Decatur, Momsen and Spruance are part of will pave the way for another SAG, just like this one, attached to the large-deck amphib so that it will become what I’m calling an ‘Up-Gunned ESG.’”
This new concept, with the addition of the joint strike fighter, looks a lot like a mini-carrier strike group. The surface action group envisioned by Swift would include a big deck and a handful of shooters.