General David Berger, the 38th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, has questioned the feasibility of the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jet’s deployment to the Corps in the future.
In a 10-year force design plan unveiled on Friday, Berger admitted that “our continued inability to build and sustain an adequate inventory of F-35 pilots leads me to conclude that we must be pragmatic regarding our ability to support the programme”.
Singling out pilot shortfalls, the general necessitated an external assessment of the F-35’s place within the Marine Corps in line with requirements of the National Defence Strategy and the Joint Warfighting Concept, due to be completed before the end of the year.
Berger also pointed to the high costs of maintaining and flying the F-35B as factors he’s weighing “in reconciling the growing disparity between numbers of platforms and numbers of aircrew". The F-35B is a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version of the warplane.
In this context, he predicted that the Marine Corps budgets would not grow in the immediate future amid his efforts to struggle with a fleet of ageing helicopters, planes, and vehicles.
The fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, the F-35 is believed to be the most expensive warplane in history, with the budget for the plane’s programme surpassing $1 trillion.
Even so, the aircraft reportedly continues to face more than a dozen issues that could put the lives of pilots at risk.
Documents earlier obtained by Defence News indicate that some F-35 pilots experience cabin pressure spikes which cause them ear and sinus pain, while the jet receives structural damage at speeds beyond Mach 1.2 and has problems operating in areas with cold weather.