The Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, and Commandant of the Marine Corps signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on tactical aircraft integration March 14, 2011.
The MOU incorporates a plan to provide five USMC squadrons of F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft to the Navy's carrier air wing. The Marine Corps will procure 80 F-35C aircraft in addition to 340 F-35B short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. This decision to purchase C-model JSFs is representative of USMC commitment to tactical air integration with the Navy. It is important to note that the continued development of F-35B remains the centerpiece of the USMC TACAIR fixed wing modernization program.
The F-35B STOVL Joint Strike Fighter is vital to our ability to conduct expeditionary operations in the future and the STOVL JSF is still our primary focus.
We've always been fans of TACAIR integration. It's good for both our services and the naval force. When we set the requirement in for STOVL aircraft, our hope was that we would be able to someday fly those versions off of naval aircraft carriers. In the meantime, it would seem prudent that we would buy some number of C variants (even early on) so that we can begin to transition our force.
The earlier than anticipated procurement of the F-35C allows the Marine Corps to simultaneously meet its enduring commitment to carrier tactical aircraft integration while we continue our measured transition to a 5th generation F-35B expeditionary capability.
Today, with 11 carriers and 11 large-deck amphibious ships, our nation has 22 capital ships flying tactical fixed wing aircraft off of them. A couple years from now, with F-35Cs on board 11 aircraft carriers and F-35Bs flying off of 11 large-deck amphibious ships, our nation would have, for the very first time, 22 capital ships with fifth-generation aircraft flying off of them.
The Marine Corps remains unequivocally committed to the success of the F-35B program.