ABOARD USS WASP: When the Marines decided to bring the press aboard the USS Wasp for the F-35B’s first set of operational tests — takeoffs, landings and flights designed to nearly simulate combat conditions — they provided the world with a glimpse of how they will fight using amphibious ships, F-35Bs and V-22 Ospreys.
We took off from the Pentagon heliport in a Bell-Boeing V-22 in a fashion similar to what the Marines would do with a full load of combat-ready Marines.
We headed out to the USS Wasp somewhere in the Atlantic, roughly a 90-minute flight from Washington. Within about 20 minutes of our landing on the Wasp, F-35Bs were taking off and landing in a steady stream.
One plane would line up on the front two-thirds of the deck according to the weight of their fuel load (that will change once they start doing takeoffs loaded with weapons) while another plane lined up alongside the carrier, hovered over the elevator and then swung softly in to land on the deck. Then the other plane would takeoff. Repeat.
The F-35Bs should be able to generate a higher sortie rate than can the Marines’ current fighter operating from the USS Wasp and other amphibious ships, the AV-8 Harrier, the Marine pilots told us.
One of the important links between the V-22s and the F-35Bs is the ability of the Ospreys to fly the five modules of an F135 engine in to a ship for replacement, a key capability during war time, not to mention one needed just to keep the fleet flying with as few visits to shore as possible for the Marine version of the Joint Strike Fighter.
As regular readers will note, I put some of this video in because it’s just too damn pretty not to share. It also helps give you a visceral sense of what the Marines’ new combination of the V-22s and F-35Bs can do.