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The F-35B stands out among military aircraft because it can be launched from small Navy ships and land in confined areas, allowing it to support ground troops on smaller battlefields. Its sophisticated stealth capabilities also means, like the Air Force’s F-22, the aircraft can fly into enemy territory without being detected by radar.

“All we can do is hope that they have solved all the program problems and that they’ve got a pretty good airplane,” Field said.

Former Marine and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., R-Calif., who is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said he trusts the decision of Panetta and Marine Corps leaders.

“The 35B is going to take the Marine Corps to a new level of sophisticated flight technology,” Hunter told The Associated Press. “The ability for the F-35B to take off and land in an extremely constrained lading zone, that’s huge for what it brings to the table. The Harrier was a great airplane but it was also limited. It doesn’t have all the new technology. The F-35B has that.”