Lockheed Martin Defends F-35’s Close Air Support Capabilities

By Michael Hoffman


LE BOURGET, Paris — Lockheed Martin said it has not received a request from the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Air Force to speed up the delivery of the gun on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s A or B models, according to Lorraine M. Martin, Lockheed’s executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program.

The Marine Crops’ F-35B is scheduled to be combat ready by next month and will take on close air support as one of its missions.

However, the F-35’s close air support capabilities have fallen under the spotlight in the debate over the Air Force’s push to retire the A-10 Warthog, the military’s lead close air support aircraft. Air Force leaders said they need to retire the aircraft to free up funding and maintainers for the F-35.

Critics of the move point to the time between the F-35B’s initial operating capability date and the time when F-35 pilots will be able to fire the F-35’s Gatling gun. A reportby Dave Majumdar for the Daily Beast said pilots will have to wait as long as four years to use the Gatling gun because the aircraft requires Block 3F software to operate it.

Martin defended the F-35B as a close air support aircraft here at the Paris Air Show saying that Lt. Gen. Joe Davis, head of Marine aviation, “has said publicly that the close air support capability he has in that aircraft (the F-35B) is more than anything he has in his current inventory and he’s very pleased with the ability and the capability.”

Tests on the four-barrel GAU-22/A Gatling gun that is scheduled to be installed on the F-35 will begin this summer.

“I know of no plans to change our formal test plan. It is a well organized and designed test plan…and I don’t’ know of any activities to enhance that,” Martin said. “Anytime that our customer would come to us and say we need you to do something earlier, we would work with them and readjust things, but we have not gotten that request.”

The F-35B will enter IOC for the Marine Corps with three weapons – the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the GBU-12 laser guided bomb and the GBU-39 small diameter bomb.

She did highlight the work the Air Force and the Marine Corps is doing to create concept of operations for the F-35 as a close air support aircraft when it is combat ready.

Martin was also asked if she has heard concerns from international partners on the close air support capability of the F-35. She said no.

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