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An F-35B Lightning II performs a vertical landing at MCAS Beaufort, S.C., on March 14, 2016. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the jet and uses a jet propulsion system to execute the landing. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonah Lovy.

​The Marine Corps is designated the force in readiness by Congress, but after 15 years of “hard fighting,” aging aircraft and a shortage of spare parts, “the numbers of aircraft in an up status is not what it needs to be,” Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said Friday.  Due to the shortage of ready aircraft, Marine pilots, particularly fighter pilots, are not getting the flight hours they need to be combat ready, Davis told a forum co-sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute. To correct that, Davis is leading a readiness recovery effort that is slowly increasing the number of available aircraft and pilots’ flight hours. “We’re on a glide slope right now to bring all those aircraft back” to the required readiness level, “where every Marine aviator is ready to go out the door” for combat, he said. “It’s a function of extracting the maximum out of the old, while bringing in the new platforms,” Davis said. The Marine Corps is nearing the end of the planned buys of its assault-support Hueys, Cobra attack helicopters, and tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys, but is struggling to get the F-35Bs it needs, he said. (See also: The Readiness Conundrum from the June issue of Air Force Magazine.)