The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps demonstrated a key capability when they operated 20 F-35B Lightning II jets from America-class amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli March 30 through April 8, fully exercising the Marine Corps’ “lightning carrier” concept for the first time in naval history on an amphibious assault ship. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger spoke to the potential of the “lighting carrier” concept based on amphibious assault ships in his planning guidance. “Lightning” is derived from the predominance of F-35B Lightning II aircraft aboard. The demonstration featured 16 jets from Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, with an additional four from Marine. The Navy and Marine Corps team has incrementally developed the Lightning carrier concept and continues to refine its tactics, techniques, and procedures to support integrated naval operations.
“This demonstration proved the versatility of the America-class assault carrier, with its ability to embark either two squadrons of F-35Bs and a MAG command element, or a battalion-sized landing force and the associated assault support. For the fleet commander, both options are formidable and sustainable,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Joel Lang, Tripoli’s Commanding Officer.
“The fifth-generation capability of the F-35B brings a significant advancement in capability to the combatant commanders, not only as a lethal strike aircraft but with the vast array of sensors that come with the F-35B’s avionics suite. Having two full F-35B squadrons on a ship like USS Tripoli capitalizes on this next generation capability, providing the commander with a multitude of options,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Goodno, commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225.
Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, all operating from USS Tripoli at a high tempo. The demonstration proved that an assault carrier can be a lethal addition and provides combatant commanders with more options when employed in creative ways. An earlier concept utilized amphibious assault ships to demonstrate the “Harrier carrier” concept for AV-8B Harriers. This concept will not change the standard make-up of an Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit. However, the exercise demonstrated the potential to utilize amphibious assault ships to provide the naval and joint force with lethal access, collection, and strike capabilities from fifth generation Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing aircraft in future operations.
Tripoli, an amphibious assault ship, is the second America-class landing helicopter assault (LHA) ship. Optimized to support rotary- and fixed-wing operations, Tripoli carries two times as much aviation fuel, 30 percent more aviation ordnance, and—with an expanded hangar bay—more space to perform aircraft maintenance than its Wasp-class predecessors. As one of the Marine Corps’ newest F-35 squadrons, the demonstration provided an opportunity for VMFA-225 to operate at sea for the first time as a squadron. 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action. As an integral part of U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet operates naval forces in the Indo-Pacific in addition to providing realistic and relevant training necessary to flawlessly execute our Navy’s timeless roles of sea control and power projection.