U.S. Navy Details Amphibious Ship Mods Required For F-35
By Michael Fabey, Bill Sweetman
Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
The mission for VFA-121 and other early F-35B units is uncertain. Out of the weapons cleared in the Block2B/3I software standard, only the laser-guided bomb is considered useful for close air support (CAS), which is the primary mission of embarked AV-8Bs, and none of the 2B weapons are suitable for use against quickly moving targets or for a situation in which the risk of collateral damage is high. (The centerline gun pod is not included in 2B/3I.)
The F-35B lacks the Rover (remote video receiver) technology, developed since the requirement for the aircraft was written. Rover has been defined as minimum essential equipment for CAS in some theaters; according to some military sources, the Marines have explored the idea of adding a Rover-equipped external targeting pod to the F-35B until an internal solution is available.
At the same time, the Navy has slowed its planned F-35B/C production rate by 20%, according to the latest Pentagon Selected Acquisition Report, resulting in a longer planned lifetime for the AV-8B. According to a Boeing briefing last week, “a majority” of the 134-strong Marine Corps Harrier force will be in service in 2027, and the type will not be retired before 2030. Radar and other upgrades are being studied to keep the aircraft combat-worthy and avoid obsolescence.