WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps will replace its aging fleet of F/A-18 Hornet aircraft with F-35 Lighting IIs more quickly than initially planned because of continued struggles to keep the legacy fighter jets airworthy, service leaders said Wednesday.
The Marine Corps initially planned to field F-35s to squadrons now flying Hornets and AV-8B Harrier aircraft on similar timetables, but instead it will focus on replacing just its F/A-18s, William E. Taylor, the assistant deputy commandant for aviation, told members of the House Armed Services’ Readiness subcommittee.
“The real answer is to get out of legacy Hornet business as fast as possible and transition to the F-35,” Taylor said.
Three squadrons now flying Hornets will transition to F-35s during the next three years. It will be at least four years before a Harrier squadron receives the fifth-generation fighters, though it could be even longer.
Taylor said the Marine Corps is considering a transition of at least five Hornet squadrons to F-35s before replacing any Harrier units. There are 12 tactical fighter squadrons flying Hornets, five flying Harriers and two flying F-35s.