The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 19, 2012

Marine Corps forms new fighter jet squadron

SAN DIEGO — The Marine Corps is forming the first squadron of pilots to fly the next-generation strike fighter jet, months after lawmakers raised concern that there was a rush to end the testing of an aircraft hit with technical problems.

So far two veteran pilots of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing have been trained to fly the F-35B. They are becoming the first members of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 that will debut at a ceremony Tuesday at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

The first F-35B arrived Friday and 15 more are slated to arrive over the next year. The Defense Department has pumped a half a billion dollars into upgrading the facilities, hangars and runways at the base to make way for the next-generation fighter jet, officials said.

The pilots of the new squadron are expected to fly the aircraft by year's end.

The Marines are the first in the military taking the steps toward putting the planes in operation. The F-35B would replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier.

"It's a pretty big milestone that a lot of people are looking at and judging," said Marine Capt. Staci Reidinger, a spokeswoman at the Yuma base. "The lessons learned will be shared."

Tuesday's inauguration comes only months after leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee suggested that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rushed a decision to develop the Marine Corps version of the fighter jet.

In a letter sent in February to the Pentagon chief, Sens. Carl Levin, the committee chairman, and John McCain, the panel's top Republican, questioned whether the F-35B had met the criteria to warrant an end to its probation. The F-35B had been on a two-year probation because of "significant testing problems."

Levin, D-Mich., and McCain, R-Ariz., wrote that the program "has enjoyed some success over the last few months, after several years of having fallen short." But they said "more problems with the F-35B's structure and propulsion, potentially as serious as those that were originally identified a year ago, have been found. This is salient where the F-35B has completed only 20 percent of its developmental test plan to date. Your decision, therefore, appears at least premature."

Neither McCain nor Levin could be reached for comment on the squadron.

The developer of the aircraft, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., is building three versions of the F-35 — one each for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Schedule delays and cost overruns have dogged the F-35's development, making it the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program ever. Ten years in, the total F-35 program cost has jumped from $233 billion to an estimated $385 billion. Recent estimates suggest the entire program could exceed $1 trillion over 50 years.

Aviation safety consultant and retired Marine Corps Col. Pete Field, who served as the former director of the Naval Test Pilot School, said the Marine Corps' F-35B is the most complicated of the three versions because it can take off from shorter runways and land vertically. One of the problems earlier on in its development was it was heavier than predicted, Field said.

It was lightened substantially, but Field said that could also mean structural problems in the long run.

"It remains to be seen if the F-35B has a long life and is structurally sound," said Field, who was the chief test pilot for the F/A-18. "We won't know for two to three years after it's been in operation. If nothing crops up, perhaps the engineers have done their best work."

The F-35B stands out among military aircraft because it can be launched from small Navy ships and land in confined areas, allowing it to support ground troops on smaller battlefields. Its sophisticated stealth capabilities also means, like the Air Force's F-22, the aircraft can fly into enemy territory without being detected by radar.

"All we can do is hope that they have solved all the program problems and that they've got a pretty good airplane," Field said.

Former Marine and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., R-Calif., who is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said he trusts the decision of Panetta and Marine Corps leaders.

"The 35B is going to take the Marine Corps to a new level of sophisticated flight technology," Hunter told The Associated Press. "The ability for the F-35B to take off and land in an extremely constrained landing zone, that's huge for what it brings to the table. The Harrier was a great airplane but it was also limited. It doesn't have all the new technology. The F-35B has that."

 

1
Text Only
News
  • State: Discard raw milk from Greenfield Dairy

    MIDDLEBURG — Consumers should discard raw milk purchased recently from the Greenfield Dairy of Middleburg, which also has temporarily suspended production after Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in the product following routine testing, the state Department of Agriculture announced today.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penn State police: Three posed nude at Nittany shrine

    STATE COLLEGE — Penn State police say three male students who reportedly posed nude for a photo at the university’s Nittany Lion Shrine face school discipline.

    April 18, 2014

  • State unemployment rate drops to 6 percent in March

    HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s jobless rate has continued its steady decline. The state Department of Labor and Industry says unemployment fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 6 percent in March.

    April 18, 2014

  • Report: Pennsylvania forests impacted by drilling

    PITTSBURGH — A small portion of Pennsylvania state forest land has been impacted by shale gas drilling, but many questions remain about how to manage the politically sensitive issue that is opposed by many residents, according to a new report.

    April 18, 2014

  • TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Route 45 east of Montandon

    MONTANDON — A paving project is slowing traffic today on Route 45 east of Montandon.

    April 18, 2014

  • Accident victims remain in critical condition this morning

    DANVILLE - Victims from serious traffic accidents the past two days remain in critical condition this morning at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

    April 18, 2014

  • Porn prank riles Bucknell University president

    LEWISBURG — A fake email that contained a link to a pornographic website was sent to Bucknell students, faculty and staff on Tuesday night.

    April 18, 2014

  • 28-mile cross walk steps off in Northumberland

    SUNBURY — Two “cross walks” this morning, including a 28-mile trek from Northumberland to Beaver Springs, are among the highlights of Easter activities and services in the Valley.

    April 18, 2014

  • rsstrike18a.jpg Picketing begins at four Danville schools

    DANVILLE — It started like any other school day during the year, with teachers up early and arriving at school at 7:30 in the morning.

     

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Line Mountain board, teachers to talk Tuesday

    MANDATA — Line Mountain school board President Troy Laudenslager is far more optimistic this week than he has been as the board and the Line Mountain Education Association head into their first contract negotiation session in three months.

    April 18, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Poll

How do you eat your chocolate Easter bunny?

Feet first
Tail first
Ears first
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.