Category Archives: marines

Marines about to downselect to two competitors for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle Program

The legacy AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicle is very, very long in the tooth, having entered service in the 1960s. Even though it has gone through two major revisions, it is undoubtedly due for replacement. It is an excellent swimmer, but not so great ashore. But that’s the challenge with any amphibious vehicle- balancing the performance afloat, where you spend about 1% of your time, with performance ashore, where you actually do the fighting. But if you can’t swim well, then what is the point? Unfortunately, these two requirements tend to compete against one another.

After the expensive and technically ambitious but frustrating development of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was cancelled, the Marines eventually asked for proposals for a low end amphibious vehicle capable of carrying 11 troops, and incorporating lessons learned about protection against IEDs learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five teams submitted proposals, and the Marines expect to downselect to two teams shortly. Those two teams will provide 16 vehicles each that will then undergo about 2 years of engineering and operational testing.

Megan Eckstein at USNI News has a piece comparing the five entrants.

I’m leaning toward the BAE systems variant myself, but of course, Lockheed Martin will use its en0rmous political influence to try to win.

BAE Systems and Iveco Defense partnered to create this entrant for the Marines ACV 1.1 competition. Photo courtesy BAE Systems.

BAE Systems and Iveco Defense partnered to create this entrant for the Marines ACV 1.1 competition. Photo courtesy BAE Systems.

Lockheed Martin's ACV 1.1 prototype. Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin’s ACV 1.1 prototype. Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin.

Click on over and read the whole thing.


Filed under armor, marines

Will The Marines Deploy Aboard The British Carriers?

Well, Britain says they will.

LONDON — The U.S. Marine Corps will deploy its Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II strike fighters on combat sorties from Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, a senior U.K. Royal Navy officer has confirmed.

Rear Adm. Keith Blount, who is responsible for delivering the two 65,000 ton ships, said that using Marine aircraft and pilots to bolster the U.K.’s nascent carrier strike capability would be a natural extension of coalition doctrine.

“We are forever operating with allies and within coalitions. It’s the way wars are fought”, the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers) and Rear Adm. Fleet Air Arm told an audience at the DSEI defence exhibition in London on Wednesday.

That’s not to say there are planned rotations of USMC F-35 squadrons deploying.

An artist's rendering of the future HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier. Royal Navy Image

At first blush, it makes some sense. The two Brit carriers are being designed with the F-35B in mind, and the British version is essentially identical to the US version. So interoperability shouldn’t be a major technical issue.

While Blount painted the co-operative arrangement in positive terms, it will disappoint critics who believe the U.K. government should provide the R.N. and Royal Air Force (RAF) with sufficient resources, in both aircraft and manpower, to regenerate the country’s carrier air wings independently.

Here’s the problem with assuming the Marines will deploy on British carriers. Just as the RN and RAF are likely to not have sufficient airframes available to operate from the carriers, so to will the Marines always be hard pressed to have sufficient numbers of jets available.

Operating a squadron from a particular ship involves far more than simply flying the jets aboard. The entire squadron, its maintainers, it admin types, and support staff have to move aboard, not to mention the spare parts and jigs and maintenance equipment. The linguistic and cultural differences between the US and the RN are sufficient to make that integration something of a challenge.

The US has routinely practiced “cross decking” with just about everyone who has a carrier, allowing them to trap aboard our ships, and either trapping or doing touch-and-goes on theirs. But that’s a far cry from actually deploying aboard.

To the best of my recollection, the US hasn’t actually deployed a squadron from a foreign ship.

On the other hand, the British ships have a bar and serve beer, so I’m sure there will be extensive and enthusiastic support from at least some elements of Marine Air to give it a shot.


Filed under marines, navy

Marines declare F-35B Initial Operational Capability

Earlier today, as expected, GEN Dunford declared that VMFA-121 had achieved Initial Operational Capability, essentially the entry of the jet into real service.

In a milestone for the F-35 joint strike fighter, the US Marine Corps today declared the F-35B jump-jet model to have achieved initial operational capability (IOC).

The news means that the Marines consider the F-35B model – one of three designs of the multi-role fighter — to be an active plane that can perform in operations the same way any other active aircraft in its arsenal can.

The plane was declared operational by Gen. Joe Dunford, the outgoing Marine Corps commandant — and incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — in a July 31 announcement.

“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 has achieved initial operational capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees,” Dunford said in a statement. “VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship. It is capable of conducting close air support, offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force.”

Of course, IOC is a starting point, not an end. Every new platform has a steep learning curve associated with it. All the testing prior to this is conducted by the contractor, and the various test establishments of the services. The Fleet Replacement Squadron, commonly called the RAG, has focused on training aircrew and maintainers to operate the jet, while also beginning to serve as the tactical schoolhouse. But until the squadrons in the fleet actually get out there and start using the jet, it is difficult to really determine how best to operate and maintain it.

There will be bad news in the future, and stories of challenges and failures. Guess what? That happens with every single aircraft, vehicle, ship, radio, rifle, you name it.

We still maintain that the Marines insistence on STOVL capability has compromised the end product, and certainly driven the cost of the program much higher than it should have been.

But we also think the F-35 program as a whole will eventually field a capable attack platform with credible survivability in defended airspace.

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Filed under marines, planes

Chattanooga- They fought back

Well, that’s interesting. In contravention to regulation and federal law, at least two servicemembers, including the commanding officer, were in possession of weapons, and fought back against the Islamist terrorist who attacked both a recruiting station and NOSC Chattanooga. During his assault which killed four Marines and one Sailor, at least one Marine carried a Glock pistol, and the NOSC commander, LCDR Timothy White possessed a weapon, and exchanged fire with the assailant.

Per the New York Times:


Pistols versus an AK style rifle and shotgun isn’t a fair fight, but it’s far better than nothing.

The question now is will the chain of command honor LCDR White for his valor, or denounce him for violation of regulations?


Filed under marines, navy

Harrier Operations at Sea

We’ve posted a lot of videos showing fast mover operations from aircraft carriers at sea, but I think this  is the first time we’ve seen from the cockpit how the Marines do it with Harriers on big deck amphibs.

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Filed under marines, planes


Landing aboard a carrier is much different than a conventional landing ashore, so carrier aviators spend a lot of time practicing. But before they go to sea, they practice ashore, mimicking as closely as possible the carrier environment, in a routine known as Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP), or “bouncing.”

Similarly, the AV-8B and F-35B use a unique approach to landing aboard the Navy’s big deck amphibious warfare ships of the LHD and LHA classes.  The normal routine is to make an approach from astern of the ship, but offset to parallel the port side.  When alongside the desired landing spot, the jet then slides sideways to starboard until it is over the landing spot. Only then does it descend vertically, and then simply taxies out of the way for the next jet.

In order to train for this, MCAS Yuma, AZ actually has an auxiliary field that is shaped and marked like the deck of an LHD, and pilots routinely practice there.

Say what you will about the pros and cons of the program, but it certainly is interesting to watch.


Filed under marines, planes

Titusville Warbird Museum

The really cool thing about this blog is that I can share my vacation photos, and no one seems to mind too much.

The official name of the museum is Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, and the docent was kind and indulgent to the nerds in our little group. (Engineers can’t help it.)
We got to stick our heads in the bomb bay of this B-25.
DSCN0064 crop
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Filed under Air Force, history, marines, navy, Personal, planes, World War II