US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta strongly endorsed US Marine Corps aviation and voiced his continued support for the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35B jump-jet and Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft on 17 May.

"Marine air is what we need for the future," Panetta told a crowd of marines during a commemoration ceremony marking a century of USMC aviation. He praised the USMC's air arm for its flexibility and adaptability.

"There is no force in the world that can match the Marine Corps' ability to conduct agile and flexible expeditionary operations," he says.

Moreover, the USMC can conduct those operations on short notice and with overwhelming force.


 ©Lockheed Martin

It is because of those reasons that the USMC needs the short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B version of the tri-service Joint Strike Fighter, Panetta says. He notes that earlier in the year he cleared the variant from "probation" because the once-troubled F-35B is "meeting requirements."

"The Marines need a fifth-generation fighter for the future, and they will have it," Panetta declares.

The secretary also praised the MV-22 tilt-rotor. The tilt-rotor affords the USMC agility and flexibility, he says.

Source: Flight International