The US Marine Corps managed to surge replacement Boeing AV-8B Harrier II aircraft to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan within 36 hours of a Taliban attack. The 14 September Taliban attack on the British base left six of the jump-jets destroyed on the ground while two more aircraft were severely damaged.
“Within 36 hours we had eight jets on the line ready to go,” says Maj Gen Glenn Walters, commander of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The only issue that slowed down the USMC response was gaining diplomatic clearance to fly the aircraft over to Afghanistan, he says.
A total of 14 aircraft were deployed in two groups. The first group consisted of eight jets while the second included a total of six Harriers.
The Marines deployed the aircraft quickly, “because we can’t let the enemy dictate that tempo,” Walters says.
Nonetheless, while Marine air operations quickly recovered from the Taliban attack, it does call into question the wisdom of basing such expensive assets in areas where they could be left vulnerable to enemy attack. Say these weren’t Harriers, but F-35Bs–that would have cost a ton of money.
Even at Lockheed Martin’s optimistic unit cost of $70 million for the F-35A (the short take-off vertical landing F-35B costs more), that’s $420 million for six jets. If the Government Accountability Office’s more pessimistic number of $161 million is used, it’s $966 million. Mind you, that’s not including the two damaged jets–which are probably write-offs.
It doesn’t have to be the Taliban attacking bases, it could just as easily be ballistic and cruise missiles (or strike aircraft) in the Western Pacific… Or in parts of the Middle East, perhaps across a narrow strait?