USMC Improvise – A Boneyard, and a WASP

By Faye Higbee

USMC Improvise – A Boneyard, and a WASP

The US Marine Corps and Navy haven’t been in the best of shape for readiness, no thanks to budget cuts. But in true USMC manner, the “improvise” part of the Marine Corps motto, they’ve reached into the past to prepare. At the airplane boneyard, they’re having F/A Hornets refurbished. The Navy has called up a 27 Year old WASP – Amphibious Assault Ship and sent it on its way with the 22nd MEU to fight ISIS.

Bring back the Hornets

The promised new F-35 Jets did not arrive on time, due to delays and issues. They were supposed to be ready in 2006.

The ‘Boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan Airbase in Tucson, Arizona- photo by Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III/Air Force

With the Marine Corps down to only 32% of their Hornets operational, they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. So they went to the Boneyard – decommissioned aircraft – at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona to find some planes they could use.

“I consider it a pretty smart move on the U.S. Marine Corps side. The F/A-18C and D are very reliable airframes that are quite easy to maintain and operate. Once upgraded to the C+ standard, these ‘gap fillers’ are more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work these days.” David Cenciotti,  The Aviationist

[“Low-lethality means scenarios where there is little to no risk of being shot down by surface-to-air missiles, MANPADS, anti-aircraft warfare or manned interceptors.” David Cenciotti in an email to Uncle Sam’s]

Boeing is refurbishing a planned 30 of the Hornets. They have completed two of them up to the C+  level.

The WASP, an Amphibious Assault Ship (Photo by Cpl John Hamilton, USMC)

Sending out the WASP- A warship going to war

The Navy resurrected a WASP from mothballs. The last real deployment of the WASP was in 2004. But with a little TLC, some new systems, and some prepping for life on an older ship, it’s battle ready and headed for ISIS.

Many of the crew of this ship are sailors and Marines on their first deployment.

“We’re going to launch aircraft off with weapons and they’re going to come back having dropped them on somebody. If we have to send Marines ashore, they will be in the thick of it…That’s the mindset you have to have — this is a warship, and it is going to war.” Ship’s Commander, Captain Andy Smith

The Marine Corps Times reported,

The 27-year-old gator, which last deployed in 2004, got underway Saturday morning as part of a 4,000-strong Amphibious Ready Group that includes dock landing ship Whidbey Island and amphibious transport dock San Antonio. The trio will carry the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on a planned six-month pump to 5th Fleet, where ARG commanders fully expect to tangle with ISIS.

Though among the oldest in the fleet (all three are first-of-class), the ships carry some of the newest sailors and systems — and a palpable readiness.

[“Gator” refers to the ‘gator navy’, the Amphibious Assault Ships, with landing craft that transport Marines to shore.]

The crew of the WASP trained for nearly a year prior to this deployment. They learned their ship, oversaw installation of new systems, and “busted the rust.” They had to figure out how to go without some of the creature comforts of newer vessels.  But they are ready, according to their commander.


Marines from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines train on the WASP (Photo by Cpl.Ryan Coleman, USMC)