WASHINGTON --- The Marine Corps’ inability to recruit enough pilots has led the commandant to question the F-35’s place in the already budget-constrained Corps’ future plans, a potentially huge shift for the service that first fielded the Joint Strike Fighter and fought harder than any other service to build it and buy it.
“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 program,” Gen. David Berger says in a blunt new 10-year force design plan.
He calls for an external assessment of the aircraft’s place within the service relative to what he’s being asked to do in the National Defense Strategy and the forthcoming Joint Warfighting Concept, a document the Joint Staff is expected to wrap up later this year.
Berger not only singles out pilot shortfalls, but also notes 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 general has been very clear he does not expect his annual budgets to grow at any point in the near future, suggesting the best-case scenario is that they remain flat as he wrestles with fleets of aging planes, helicopters and vehicles which grow increasingly costly to maintain. (end of excerpt)
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