F-35B Lighting II aircraft becomes operational and joins U.S. Marine Corps squadron
WASHINGTON. After a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection, the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) based in Yuma, Ariz. has completed initial operational capability (IOC) on the U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lighting II aircraft.
“VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship. It is capable of conducting Close Air Support, Offensive and Defensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Assault Support Escort, and Armed Reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force,” says Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Gen. Dunford continued to say that the F-35B underwent seven weeks at sea conducting flight operations and prior to declaring IOC, the F-35B participated in large force exercises and executed an operational evaluation that included live ordinance sorties.
The U.S. Marine Corps has trained and qualified pilots as well as certified maintenance personnel to assume autonomous, organic-level maintenance support for the F-35B.
Marine Attack Squadron 211 is scheduled to transition to the F-35B in 2016 while Marine Attack Squadron 311 will do so in 2018. According to officials, the F-35B aircraft will eventually replace three legacy platforms: the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler.