June 1, 2007  


For its latest assault attempt on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, this time aimed at cutting the short-takeoff-and-vertical landing (STOVL) variant. The Navy’s carrier version of JSF is the smallest order, with a planned buy of 360. Yet the Navy is maneuvering to dictate a shift that would cost other, much larger, customers dearly. The Marine Corps and navies of Britain and Italy are seeking more than 530 STOVL F-35s (and the Air Force wants 1,700 conventional F-35s). If, as the Navy would engineer things, the Marines buy fewer STOVL planes, then unit prices will rise and non-U.S. customers will be left to foot the bill. That’s bad enough, but what’s worse is the Navy’s disregard for its fellow service. The Marines need the STOVL JSF — it is essential to their expeditionary nature and untethers them from the Navy. Yet the Navy would ride roughshod over Marine needs to feed its own carrier culture obsession. For too long now, the Navy has poured cold water on JSF. It’s time to get with the program.