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The Marines continue to show faith in the JSF program, even though the Navy and USAF are becoming frustrated

The US Marine Corps remains the only branch of the military that doesn't plan to delay the rollout of the next-generation Joint Strike Fighter Fighter (JSF) aircraft.

The F-35B Lightning II aircraft, a Lockheed Martin-made aircraft able to make short take-offs and vertical landings, recently passed its first vertical landing test.  During testing, the pilot was able to perform an 80-knot (roughly 93 mph) test takeoff -- he hovered for 60 seconds before landing back on the runway.

"Today's vertical landing onto a 95-foot square pad showed that we have the thrust and the control to maneuver accurately both in free air and in the descent through ground effect," said Graham Tomlinson, F-35 Lead STOVL pilot, in a statement earlier in the month.

Ideally, the USMC will be able to quickly launch missions from carriers and ground-based locations with the F-35B -- and 29 of the pricey aircraft have been purchased in the fiscal 2008-2010 budgets. The first USMC squadron of F-35B aircraft is expected to launch in 2014.

"If the F-35B makes its numbers, that empowers the Marines in their effort to get a divorce from the traditional large carrier groups," said Teal Group defense analyst Richard Aboulafia.

A report late last year indicated the F-35 program is drastically behind schedule and budget and could end up using all research funds in the next year.  The continued trouble has left actual demand of the highly anticipated aircraft unknown by Lockheed and military officials, though both sides are trying to sort that out.

Both the U.S. Air Force and Navy are expecting delays for their versions of the JSF, as government officials increase pressure on Lockheed Martin to get the budget under  control.





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