The Marine Corps is flying up to 20 F-35B Lightning II stealth jets from a San Diego-based amphibious assault ship in a test of the “Lightning Carrier” concept to increase firepower in the Pacific.
The Navy’s nine amphibious assault ships primarily carry helicopters and tiltrotors along with half a dozen vertical takeoff jets. But with 20 of the new stealth jets aboard, an amphibious ship becomes a mini aircraft carrier.
At 20 F-35B Lightning II jets, the Tripoli has a smaller complement than the 85 to 90 aircraft carried by a nuclear-powered Nimitiz-class supercarrier, but almost as many jets as on Chinese carriers.
The fighters landing on the Tripoli belong to Marine fighter attack squadrons 225 and 221, both based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.
The F-35B can take off in a short distance without a catapult and land vertically thanks to a giant fan in its fuselage. Other versions of the Joint Strike Fighter are designed for Air Force and Navy use.
The aircraft is considered the most advanced warplane in the world and is also in service with allied countries from Israel to the United Kingdom.