Each U.S. Navy Expeditionary Strike Group has one helicopter assault ship and all of the large support ships have at least a landing deck, if not a small complement of their own helicopters.
The air wing includes helicopters that carry troops, helicopters that bear weapons, troop carrying tilt rotor aircraft, and vertical takeoff attack jets.
Let’s take a look at how the U.S. Marine Corps moves through the air …
The lifting duties fall to the CH-46 Sea Knight, the CH-53D Sea Stallion, and the CH-53E Super Stallion. The Sea Knight can haul 25 troops, the Sea Stallion can haul 38 troops or four tons of cargo, while the Super Stallion can haul 37 troops and fifteen tons of cargo or 55 troops with a special interior.
CH-46 Sea Knight
CH-53D Sea Stallion
CH-53E Super Stallion
AH-1 Super Cobra with what appear to be AGM-114 Hellfire missiles attached
The newest troop mover for the Marines is the V-22 Osprey. This tilt rotor aircraft can haul 24 seated troops, 32 if they load on the floor, or it can carry ten tons of cargo. Capable of 350 miles per hour at 15,000 feet, it more than doubles the maximum speed of the CH-46 Sea Knight that it is slowly replacing. Information is scant, but the V-22 has been fitted with a GAU-17 minigun in a belly turret, permitting it to provide close air support while inserting or extracting troops.
The Marine Corps operates several types of jets, but the only one that travels by helicopter assault ship is the AV-8B Harrier II. This subsonic vertical take off and landing attack plane provides the sea going equivalent of the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II. This plane can go tank hunting with its GAU-12 25mm Gatling gun, defend the fleet from enemy fighters with air to air missiles, attack surface ships with the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, or neutralize enemy radar with the AGM-88 HARM.
The Harrier, while sporting an impressive set of features, was built before computer simulation of weapons damage and live fire testing was required. These aircraft have been found to be more than a bit fragile and they’re aging, so there was a plan to replace them with the F-35B Lightning II.
However ... this turned up while I was writing this article:
Lockheed Martin may need to redesign the airframe structure and propulsion system of the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), says US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The changes would raise the weight and cost of the variant ordered by the US Marine Corps, Gates says. As a result, the F-35B will be placed on the equivalent of a two-year probation, with termination possible if the programme fails to recover, he says.
"The Marine Corps made a compelling case that they need some time to get things right with the STOVL and we will give them that opportunity," Gates says.
Let’s consider this diary in the context of the Progressive Congress mission statement.
Like the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Progressive Congress focuses its efforts around four key policy areas:
Peace and global security;
Energy independence and environmental sustainability;
Civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights;
Public health, education and economic opportunity.
I’ve published several military systems diaries here over the last year, this is the third in three days, and there has been a lot of unhelpful sniping in comments. Can we please talk about what we, as a nation, actually need for our defense?