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F-35B Joint Strike Fighter gets IOC from US Marine Corps


An F-35B flies over Edwards Air Force Base, California, in November 2013. A Lockheed Martin photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): The US Marine Corps has announced a squadron of 10 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft as combat ready for a worldwide deployment.

The announcement, made on July 31, has given Initial Operational Capability (IOC) to the Short Take Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) model of the multi-role Joint Strike Fighter -- one of the world's costliest defence projects.

The Marine Corps' declaration of initial operational capability for its squadron of F-35Bs "marks a significant milestone in the continued evolution of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme," Undersecretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall said in a statement.

"The decision was made following a thorough operational readiness inspection, which assessed the Marine Corps' ability to employ this complex weapon system in an operational environment," Kendall said.

As the future of Marine Corps tactical aviation, the F-35 will eventually replace three legacy platforms: the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler.

The Marines plan to acquire a total of 420 F-35B and F-35C (aircraft carrier variant) fighters. The first F-35B deployment is scheduled to take place in 2017.

Touted as the ultimate stealth-attack aircraft able to evade radar detection, the F-35 programme has been marred by repeated cost overruns, recurring technical problems and delivery delays, and is running seven years behind schedule.

It has been pegged as the costliest weapons programme in Pentagon's history.

The programme's total price tag is estimated at nearly US$ 400 billion for 2,443 aircraft, with each plane costing a whopping US$ 160 million.

Lockheed Martin is developing the new generation fighters with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

The F-35 is intended to replace a wide range of existing fighter, strike, and ground attack aircraft for the nine partnering nations in the programme -- the US, UK, Italy, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Turkey.

Tags:

F-35B  JSF  US  Marine Corps  Fighter  Lockheed  

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