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US Marine Corps declares F-35B operational

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 3, 2015

19472915425_f7ff30d54e_kThe US Marine Corps has achieved initial operational capability (IOC) for the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Lightning II, with a squadron of 10 F-35B aircraft considered ready for worldwide deployment.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) based in Yuma, Arizona, is now therefore the first operational F-35 squadron, following a five-day operational readiness inspection that concluded on July 17.

“VMFA-121 has 10 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,” said General Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps, on July 31.

“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.”

F-35 contractor Lockheed Martin has welcomed the achievement of IOC.


“Congratulations to the US Marine Corps on achieving initial operating capability with the F-35B Lightning II, a milestone achieved through dedication and perseverance: touchstones of the Marine Corps,” the company said in a statement.

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Comments (9)

  • Raymond


    It’s interesting that the B variant, that was on probation and could have been cancelled, has declared IOC first.

  • Jason


    The whole JSF programme was on probation in 2009-10, not just the F-35B. Any talk of cancelling the B only came from critics of the program, not from the JPO or USMC.

  • Damian


    I agree Raymond. It is very interesting that what should be the most complex of the three variants is first to gain IOC capability, especially given the checkered history of the whole program. Maybe it was the talk of cancellation that saw LM swing resources disproportionate to the B that has it out in front, or maybe it is a less complicated mission profile and weapons package that sees B with IOC first, or maybe the B had fewer problems (if not bigger) than the others that just happened to be resolved first?

  • Air Observer


    A great replacement for the Harrier.

  • Chris GG


    The USMC Harriers were assessed as being most in need of replacement of the USA fighter fleets. The engine has no further growth potential. The 2 hot and 2 cold fuselage nozzles are more vulnerable to IR guided WVRAAMs and MANPAD SAMs. The bring back payload means smart weapons are often dumped at sea to allow safe hot temp rolling vertical recoveries on USN LHDs decks in the MEAO. Not all aircraft have APG65 RADARs that were salvaged from upgraded Hornets that got superior APG73 AESA RADARs. They are designated AV8B+ in a non uniform fleet.

    The Super Hornet Conformal Fuel Tanks take internal fuel compared to the F35C to deficits of 450kg E and 900kg F model and growler. Over sea 2 engines are safer than 1 on the F35. The USN by continuing to acquire S Hornets around 1/2 acquisition cost of the F35C seem to doubt whether slightly better frontal stealth, internal bomb bays and targeting devices are value for money. More stealthy strike orientated UAVs might become available by mid 2018 when F35C IOC is planned. AAR of UAVs has already been proven by the USA military. Australian civilian boffins have proven buddy refueling by 2 UAVs.

    APG73 RADAR equipped Super Hornets of early Blocks are only used for tanking at sea or training on land. The APG81 on the F35 models is only a minor evolution up from the APG79 on operational Super Hornets of the latest Blocks. The USN fighter fleet is standardising on E and F model S Hornets and Growlers for EW simplifying logistics. The USMC arm of the USN has A+/B+/C/D classics and EA6B Prowlers in addition to AV8B/+ Harriers. Hence the higher priority to standardise on F35B/Cs and reduce spares holdings in the field as the USMC uniquely operate from CVNs, LHDs and land bases.

  • Paul


    Harriers yeah great Aircraft but not so for the Maintainers – like you need to remove the whole Wing to get the Engine out…

  • Air Observer


    The Pegasus is a Monster. Plus every time the engine got a little more power they stuck more weapons on it. I would imagine out of all the pilots facing their aircraft being replaced by the F35, the Harrier drivers are the happiest.

  • Daryl


    This is interesting news,given that our gov recently knocked on the head a purchase of these for the new carriers.Regarding the maintainers engine changeout routine.How much time to to do an engine swap.Remember ,they had to break an F-86 in half to remove the engine.Remember a tyre change on an F-100 required the entire brake assembly to be removed before the wheel could be removed…the maintainers loved that…NOT.

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