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Exercise Raises Questions About Marine Corps F-35 Plans


The Marine Corps is spending tens of billions of dollars to buy the F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant, which it says it needs to quickly deploy to beachheads to provide close air support to landing forces. Yet, the mechanics of getting it ashore are complex, and may make shore basing impossible.

“Quickly” is a relative concept, and the timelines necessary to prepare forward bases may be at odds with Marine amphibious warfare plans.

For example, one of four press releases issued to date about Exercise Steel Knight reveals for the first time that the Corps expects that building a 40,800 sq. ft. landing pad for the F-35B will take two months, although this time it was done in 17 days.

Don't understand. Why do you need a 40,000 sq ft (200ft x 200ft) hardened surface to land (and park) a few F-35's?

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Nice example of selective reporting...

The pad that took 17 days was not the primary pad used, but a secondary "emergency" pad (and attached taxiway) that was built "just in case" due to this being the F-35B's first OT use of Austere basing. The 17 days also included the time to remove 4 inches of reinforced concrete and to build the attached taxiway. It was also build to last longer than just this exercise.

To facilitate testing of the aircraft’s VTOL capabilities in an expeditionary environment, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 constructed a 204 feet by 200 feet VTOL PAD at the Strategic Expeditionary Landing Field. In addition, the support squadron constructed a 150 feet by 96 feet taxiway to connect the landing zone to the main landing field and hangar.

“Because this is the first time the F-35B is out here on an expeditionary landing field we built the [VTOL] Pad in the event that there is an emergency so they have more than one option to get the aircraft on the deck,” said Royer.

According to Capt. Jonathan H. Royer, assistance operation officer, MWSS-374, the landing zone will serve for emergency purposes throughout the remainder of Steel Knight 16 but has the potential to be utilized in future training.

The task depended on the heavy equipment required, to remove four inches of concrete before any other work could be done on the site.

The pad was also instrumented (again, due to the fact that this was a OT test).

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Don't understand. Why do you need a 40,000 sq ft (200ft x 200ft) hardened surface to land (and park) a few F-35's?

That article is a steaming pile... if you actually read how the USMC plans to use its F-35Bs you will see it has nothing to do with spending weeks building specialized landing pads or establishing giant fixed bases like Bastion. The whole idea is to show up at an almost unimproved site, operate there for a day or three and then be gone before the enemy has time to react... all while new temporary bases and decoy bases are being established all over the place.

See pages 37 and 38.

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Page 99 has a good photo of Marines laying an AM-2 mat airfield. In less than 24 hours they will have a runway capable of STOVL operations which is 4000 feet long and 96 feet wide.