first published on March 8, 2018 by Will
History has been made as the Marines have deployed a detachment of F-35B stealth aircraft to an MEU currently patrolling the South China Sea.
This is the first time the Marine’s variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been operationally deployed to a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and it just so happens to be in the internationally contested waters of the South China Sea where tensions are high.
The following video, filmed on March 5, 2018 by Cpl. Bernadette Wildes, shows F-35B Lightning IIs performing deck landing qualifications on the USS Wasp, a multipurpose amphibious assault ship. The Marines’ variant of the aircraft can be seen using its short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities, which makes the need for massive, full-sized aircraft carriers unnecessary.
The F-35Bs are from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 and have been attached to the USMC’s only continuously deployed (MEU), the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Tensions remain high in the South China Sea as China has laid claim to waters also claimed by Vietnam and other nations. China has went as far as drudging artificial islands into place and then weaponizing them with air defense and military units.
China pulled a surprise move recently as they unveiled a warship equipped with an electromagnetic railgun, beating the United States’ stalled out naval railgun program. So it’s apparent that the contest for the disputed waters is also creating somewhat of an arms race.
The US just harbored the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam, greatly angering China. This is the first visit of an American Aircraft carrier to Vietnam since the Vietnam War. The move was made by the US as a demonstration to regional allies of our commitment to them.
So China may be rocking a ship-mounted railgun, but now that the US just forward deployed 5th generation Joint Strike Fighter stealth aircraft that can eliminate an entire fighter squadron and carrier battle group from miles away, all without ever being detected… I think we’ll be okay.