The Royal Marine recruiting commercial has a lesson for the USMC. After a sprint thru the woods, after crossing obstacles and navigating a trench...when you reach the other side...and before you continue....YOU MUST COMPOSE YOURSELF!
That's exactly what the USMC has been through with the F-35. A sprint, obstacles, and now it must compose itself before it makes the foolish mistake of declaring IOC.
There are several reasons why this move could backfire to detriment of the Marine Corps for several generations....
Soldiers will never admit it. SOCOM absolutely fucking hates it, but the reality is that when it comes to military virtue, the USMC is the leader of the pack. That reputation has been built on the sacrifice of many, on the leadership of a few and its been protected by all that have worn the uniform. How will the public react if the USMC declares a plane operational when every news organization on the planet will be calling us liars? You can't spin it. People will see that the Marines are just like everyone else. The Corps can't afford to let that happen. The US Army can be ordinary. The Marine Corps must remain extraordinary!
2. The Law.
This one is fuzzy. It appears the USMC, Program Office, Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have all conspired to find a "hole" in the law. One thing is clear. An airplane cannot be put into full rate production without completing several requirements. A stable design being one of them. All system operational is another. Its obvious that this was intended to prevent the services from buying gear and then "fixing it" once it was in service. By declaring IOC this year the Marine Corps is violating the spirit if not the actual letter of the law. That's not the type of ground that the Marines should be willing to cross.
This is the big beast in the room. Putting an airplane into service before its ready could wreck the budget in ways that will make it impossible to recover from. We must not make the financial trainwreck that the USMC is facing worse. Now is a time to preserve the Corps, not take foolish risks to put forward pet ideas.
In summation, the F-35B might deliver what the ORIGINAL architects of the Marine Corps portion of the program wanted. A STOVL jet that would provide the speed of the F-18 with the vertical landing of the Harrier....but until we're sure we should stop playing the USAF card of deep strike, first day of war fighter. Stop tweaking the Navy by talking about LHD's replacing carriers.
Stay in your lane Marines. Don't over sell. Don't over commit. But do deliver.
That means delaying IOC till 2019. After the plane is ready.....if it truly can be made ready that is....
NOTE: Lockheed Martin's behavior with the ACV project cannot be over looked. This company is bordering on criminal organization. A full audit should be conducted. I would bet body parts that just like their dealings with Patria, we will find evidence of waste, fraud and abuse rampant in the F-35 program.