‘Cross-Decking’ – Sharing F-35B Stealth Fighters Across Many Allied Aircraft Carriers and Assault Ships

Airwolfhound via (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/) Flickr

With the rapid expansion of the F-35B Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) stealth fighter into numerous allied air forces and navies, the idea of ‘cross-decking’ them aboard U.S. warships, and vice versa is gaining ground. As I have previously reported, the concept is being considered by Australia and Italy, among others.

But most recently it was seen in action with U.S. F-35Bs flown by U.S. Marine Corps aviators taking part in combat operations alongside Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots from the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, last month.

This was the first time American aircraft flew a combat mission from a British warship since World War II. Both the RAF’s 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters,” and USMC Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, “Wake Island Avengers,” were deployed as part of an anti-ISIS mission.

Last week USNI News reported that the UK’s secretary of state for defence, Ben Wallace, said he would also welcome a chance to embark a squadron of its F-35B Joint Strike Fighters aboard an American amphibious assault ship.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens without our F-35Bs and whether we find ourselves on a U.S… ship in the future. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for it. And we shouldn’t be anchored to one type or the other. The French have used the Charles de Gaulle often to do strikes against Islamist targets in Africa. And it is a floating airfield, as well as a floating intelligence collection capability, [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capability and protection, as well as a convener.

Wallace added: “If the U.S. Marine Corps wants us to return the favor, I would be delighted to deploy a squadron.” Wallace also said that this concept isn’t limited to the U.S., it demonstrates the possibilities for other NATO allies and partners to have their aircraft embarked on the Royal Navy’s flagship carrier. “The whole point of it is it’s a carrier that will interoperate very well with F-35Bs,” said Wallace.

To make the point, the British defence secretary recently met with his Italian counterparts, as Italy has begun to deploy the Joint Strike Fighter on its own carrierCavour. So, there is the possibility of Italian F-35Bs flying from “Big Lizzie” at some point as well.

And then there is Australia which is considering deploying F-35Bs aboard its two Canberra class amphibious assault LHDs, which are like U.S. Wasp-class ships. Australia is still debating the merits of adding F-35Bs to these amphibious ships.

But this could be part of a much larger global strategy allowed by the widespread adoption of the F-35s by America’s allies. Defense Connect notes, “What if Australia actively pursued what the United States Studies Centre (USSC) defines as ‘capability aggregation and collective deterrence in the Indo-Pacific’ by enabling the cross-decking of American, Japanese, South Korean and eventually British F-35Bs operating in the region?”

It seems we may be heading in that direction, sooner rather than later. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
7 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peted
Peted
2 months ago

Sounds like a good and workable plan for allies to share and more effectively use resources!

GI Bride
2 months ago

Not a very smart idea as allies can become enemies.
We saw it in WWII. First with one, Then with the other side
China, Africa, Italy & the middle east were good examples
When nations sided With Nazi Germany. The only ally we have been able to trust for years is England, But with all their illegal immigration from the once British empire into England. They are not true English people.
They are Asians. African. Jamaicans,. Indians Etc. they have allowed into England. Ireland & Scotland are in the same sad state of affairs
So we do not want or need to share our latest up to date equipment with them. Their spies will find out soon enough Let us not hand it to them on a silver platter

Mary Geiger
2 months ago

Is that a share and share alike deal? Or a lopsided deal?

agiletz
agiletz
2 months ago

Another moment toward the continued destruction of the US military – how bloody stoopid. Can you imagine a US pilot having to take orders from a foreign ship commander – give me a break!

Jawad
Jawad
2 months ago

This plan introduces almost too many variables. Excellent cooperation requires excellent coordination. And too many commanders might spoil a military operation just as too many cooks spoil the broth.

oldefarte
oldefarte
2 months ago

The whole idea of the VSTOL aircraft is to expand the number and types of ships capable of launching and supporting combat aircraft, so the notion of “cross-basing” American planes on British or Italian ships (and vice-versa), many of which are actually better configured for them than are most, non-carrier US vessels (and using carrier space for VSTOL aircraft is, at present, a waste of carrier capacity) is only logical. The necessity of having actual, manned combat aircraft even in this age of missiles and other advanced weaponry, was quite adequately demonstrated during the Falklands War and, tho’ technology has advanced significantly in the ensuing 40 years, it hasn’t changed that basic calculus. The more vessels (under whatever flag) which can launch and support these types of assets, the better, particularly in areas where it is excessively dangerous to station a high value vessel like an aircraft carrier (such as in the straits separating Taiwan from China). Standardization of such things as firearm ammunition, rifle magazines, and gas mask filters has been a huge boon to logistics management. This is merely the next step in the process.

Festus
Festus
2 months ago

This is how the globalist lefty’s take over. First the schools, now the military. Watch it, folks, it’s gonna get rough.


People, Places & Things