The US Marine Corps is first to fight,according to their tradition.In the case of the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strik Fighter,they may well be first to fly the new aircraft in the Middle Eastern theatre of operations as well,according to Lieutenant General Robert Walsh,commander of US Marine Corps Combat Development Command and Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration.Speaking with reporters at a breakfast on 30 August 2016,LTGEN Walsh said that:
The Marine Corps has been out in fron with the F-35B.We're the first ones that are going to be deploying it.We are going to be deploying it on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1).The interesting thing is,not only are we deploying it on the Wasp (in support of Asia-Pacific exercises);we're also going to deploy it on the USS Essex (LHD-2) during the same year in US CENTCOM (including the Middle East).So not only are we going to do one;we are going to do two.So that's quite the challenge,to get two squadrons aboard two ships and deploy them.*
Sixteen F-35Bs will be stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakumi,Japan.Then six of these will join the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and link up with Third Battalion,Fifth Marines,a regiment that is to be the experimental force of the US Marine Corps for two years.About eight months later,a Southern California MEU will deploy with F-35Bs on the USS Essex under CENTCOM.*
A lot of it's going to be the school of hard knocks.It's probably not the way we would have wanted it,but we want to exploit the fifth generation.That's what I think it is as we look at this airplane.We've been after this for a long time.We're replacing our F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets;our AV-8B Harriers;and our EA-6 Prowlers with that airplane,LTGEN Walsh noted.*
The second squadron of F-35Bs being stood up at Iwakumi makes the deployment into combat possible,Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller told the School of Strategic and International Studies in Washington in early August.The long delay in delivery of the F-35 has resulted in a shortfall of aviation readiness as the Corps scraped by,keeping the older aircraft flying longer than had been anticipated,GEN Neller explained.*
The US Marines will not only be leading the US military in deploying the F-35,but the Royal Navy as well.When the new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth makes its initial deployment in 2021,guess who will be flying their F-35Bs off of it?It may be that the RN will not be ready to fully shoulder the responsibility at that time,so they invited the US Marines to deploy with them.