The first female Marine F-35B pilot, Capt. Anneliese Satz, has passed out of Fightertown at MCAS Beaufort and is headed to the Fleet, bound for the “Green Knights” of VMFA-121 at MACS Iwakuni.
In related news, Marine F-35s of the WestPac forward-deployed Wasp Amphibious Ready Group recently logged the first hot reloading of live ordnance during flight operations at sea, the first employment of the 25mm GAU-22 cannon against a simulated target, and the first joint aviation fires against a simulated target during the evolutions. The evolution took place in the Solomon Sea, August 4, 2019.
This whole thing is looking more and more like Zumwalt’s 1970s Sea Control Ship program finally coming to fruition.
The U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft reached initial operational capability July 31, 2015 with a squadron of 10 F-35Bs ready for world-wide deployment.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona, is the first squadron in military history to become operational with an F-35 variant, following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection, which concluded July 17.
“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 has achieved Initial Operational Capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “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.”
Dunford stated that he has his full confidence in the F-35B’s ability to support Marines in combat, predicated on years of concurrent developmental testing and operational flying.
“Prior to declaring IOC, we have conducted flight operations for seven weeks at sea aboard an L-Class carrier, participated in multiple large force exercises, and executed a recent operational evaluation which included multiple live ordnance sorties,” said Dunford. “The F-35B’s ability to conduct operations from expeditionary airstrips or sea-based carriers provides our Nation with its first 5th generation strike fighter, which will transform the way we fight and win.”
The U.S. Marine Corps has trained and qualified more than 50 Marine F-35B pilots and certified about 500 maintenance personnel to assume autonomous, organic-level maintenance support for the F-35B.
VMFA-121’s transition will be followed by Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), an AV-8B squadron, which is scheduled to transition to the F-35B in fiscal year 2016. In 2018, VAM-311 will conduct its transition to the F-35B.
No matter how you feel about them personally, production seems to be moving right along. For instance, BAE Systems’ F-35 Lightning II facility in Samlesbury, England just completed their 200th rear fuselage. That’s right, in case you didn’t know, each F-35 has an English ass.
I just keep telling myself that when they introduced the F4U Corsair (which had its share of teething problems and was for several years considered unsafe for carrier operations), I’m sure there were some Navy and Marine pilots that would have preferred to keep their Brewster Buffaloes and F4F Wildcats.
And truth be told, the Harrier caught a lot of flack for thirty years over its own perceived issues, so overall, I guess the beat goes on.