On 18 September, acting Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith directed a two-day stand down in operations for Marine Corps aviation units following the disappearance of an F-35B jet on the preceding day, the third Marine Corps Class-A mishap in six weeks.
The Marine Corps Safety Center states that a Class-A Mishap is one that involves fatality, injury or occupational related illness causing permanent total disability, or one that results property damage of $2.5m or greater.
The implications of this stand down are that the Marine Corps will incur some costs and delays in training and maintenance schedules, with the financial burden and logistical setbacks associated with this decision likely to have a ripple effect on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the Marine Corps’ operations.
Moreover, the stand down will temporarily reduce its operational readiness and combat ability, potentially hampering its ability to respond swiftly to any unforeseen threats or challenges in the theatres where the four Marine Active Wings are present.
The F-35B mishap involved a safe ejection from the aircraft on 17 September off the South Carolina coast, that resulted in a call from Joint Base Charleston to local residents to help in recovery of the missing jet after the aircraft continued a flight course without the pilot aboard. A debris field was discovered the following evening, on 18 September, concluding the search for the stealth aircraft that was not issuing a signal for its location through its transponder.
The decision from Smith to stand down aviation units was made to allow commanders to lead discussions with Marines one the fundamentals of safety procedures in flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and combat readiness, according to a statement from the the Pentagon on 18 September.
The statement references two other Class-A mishaps from the past six weeks, believed to be the 27 August incident in Australia where an MV-22 Osprey crashed with 20 marines aboard, killing two Osprey crew and a Marine Corp major; and another incident on 24 August when a Marine F/A-18D Hornet pilot died in a crash during a training exercise.
“This stand down invests time and energy in reinforcing the Marine aviation community’s established policies, practices and procedures and ensures Marine Corps remains a ready and highly-trained fighting force,” continued the Pentagon statement to the Marine Corps official website.