F-35B deploys in the East China Sea

By Lee Hudson / March 5, 2018 at 11:15 AM

The Navy and Marine Corps today deployed the F-35B short-takeoff-and-landing variant for the first-ever shipboard deployment.

A detachment of F-35s with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121 landed aboard the Wasp (LHD-1) marking the beginning of the deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

"The F-35B is a game-changer for the Marine Corps," Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, VMFA-121 commanding officer said in a statement.

The Government Accountability Office, in an October 2017 report, highlighted the Marine Corps' initial F-35 deployments on ships in 2018, and potentially the initial ship deployments for the Navy, will not include required intermediate-level maintenance capabilities. Such capabilities provide a level of support between the squadron and the depots so that repairs can be done at sea. The Pentagon has identified initial intermediate capabilities that it plans to implement, but funding is not in place.

"These decisions will trigger other requirements and related costs that must be planned for -- such as for personnel, technical data, support equipment, and updates to policies governing the maintenance of spare parts -- before the capability can be implemented," according to GAO. "For example, program officials told us that once determinations are made about intermediate-level maintenance, the program will have to develop a plan that specifies what technical data rights are needed, and when, to facilitate intermediate-level maintenance, and will then have to negotiate with the contractor to obtain those technical data rights."

Lockheed Martin owns 100 percent of F-35 sustainment including data rights. Pentagon pricing chief Shay Assad said last October intellectual property is a focus of the Defense Department's deep-dive cost review because it is imperative to the F-35 sustainment strategy.