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    The USS Bataan’s Overhaul: Ushering in a Revolutionary Epoch of Maritime Air Dominance with F-35B Stealth Jets

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    The USS Bataan is on course to be recognized as the U.S. Navy’s most sophisticated amphibious assault ship, heralding a fresh era in naval flight capabilities as it receives comprehensive upgrades to accommodate the impressive F-35B Lightning II stealth aircraft.

    Docked in New York City for Fleet Week 2024, the Bataan’s upcoming overhaul is slated to be a “game-changer” for its capabilities and future operations.

    This amphibious assault ship just completed a lengthy deployment in the Middle East, engaging in the Red Sea fight. However, it will soon head to the shipyard for a transformation that will enable it to carry vertical takeoff-capable F-35Bs, significantly enhancing its air-to-air combat potential.

    While the Bataan is smaller than traditional aircraft carriers like the USS Gerald R. Ford, and hosts fewer fighters – a maximum of 20 F-35s compared to the Ford’s capacity of over 50 – it presents a more cost-effective solution with better versatility due to its other capabilities.

    The refurbishment process is extensive, involving more than 600 days in the shipyard with a complete revamp of the flight deck to accommodate the F-35B’s unique vertical takeoff and landing demands. “The electrical demand is different from any aircraft that we have on board,” explained Capt. Trace Head, the ship’s executive officer. The deck must be capable of withstanding the intense heat generated during the F-35B’s vertical landing process.

    “We have to completely revamp the flight deck,” said Head, who also mentioned that transitioning from the Harrier to the F-35 requires specific maintenance and updates.

    Lt. Gen. Brian Cavanaugh, the leader of Marine Forces Command, emphasized that incorporating the F-35 into the Bataan’s arsenal is a “significant jump” in capability, presenting both new opportunities and challenges for the force.

    Once the Bataan is fitted to operate F-35s, it is expected to become an “incredibly advanced” asset, particularly in air-to-air engagements. This is partly due to the F-35B’s suite of sensors, which transform the aircraft into a battlefield hub capable of relaying critical information to friendly forces across a broad area.

    The Bataan’s new capability will not only change its mission profile but could also affect its deployment duration.

    During its recent operations in the Red Sea, the absence of F-35s meant that the Bataan did not bring as much combat power as it potentially could.

    “There’s absolutely no question about” the impact F-35s would have had, Head stated, suggesting the ship might still have been deployed if it had been equipped with the advanced fighters.

    Nevertheless, US allies including Australia, Japan, and South Korea are pursuing similar strategies with their programs at different stages of development.

    The Bataan’s return to the fleet, anticipated around May 2026, will be greeted with expectations for a more sophisticated and capable naval warfare platform. “The next deployment, we will be the most advanced amphibious warship in the Navy coming out of the shipyard,” Head confidently stated.

    The integration of F-35s aboard amphibious assault ships like the Bataan illustrates a strategic shift in deploying fifth-generation fighters, providing a potent combination of stealth, sensors, and air power in a versatile and mobile naval package.

    The transformation of the USS Bataan heralds a future where naval air power is more distributed, adaptable, and formidable, fundamentally reshaping the nature of naval engagements and power projection.

    Relevant articles:
    F-35s are going to be a ‘game-changer’ for US Navy amphibious assault ship and former ‘Harrier carrier’ USS Bataan, senior officer says, Business Insider
    Stormy Daniels’s husband: ‘Good chance’ they’ll leave US if Trump acquitted, AOL.com
    26th MEU(SOC) Returns Home from Eight-Month Deployment, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (.mil)
    Bataan ARG, 26th MEU to Arrive Home Saturday, USNI News

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