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‘Black Knight’ Marines train on F-35s at Base Williamtown

written by Robert Dougherty | July 14, 2023

US Marines discuss the capabilities of F-35C aircraft with RAAF No. 3 Squadron at Williamtown. (Defence)

US’ Black Knight’ Marines spent three weeks conducting training on the F-35 alongside RAAF aviators from No. 3 Squadron at Base Williamtown in NSW.

The legendary ‘Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314’ squadron can trace its history back to World War II and has previously flown aircraft such as the Hornet and Phantom II.

RAAF No. 3 Squadron Commanding Officer Wing Commander Adrian Kiely said the squadrons have previously worked together to sustain and enhance aviation capabilities in the Indo-Pacific Region.

“Over the past year, No. 3 Squadron has operated with VMFA-314 [the Black Knights], aiming to deepen operational and maintenance interoperability,” he said.

“In 2023 specifically, we are seeking to test and prove interchangeability, with a specific focus on our maintenance and logistics workforces.”


Training included launching, refuelling, catching, and maintaining each squadron’s respective version of the F-35: No. 3 Squadron’s A variant and the Black Knight’s C variant.

The aviators were able to transfer a 270-volt battery from a RAAF F-35A and place it in a USMC F-35C, demonstrating fluency, interoperability, and interchangeability between the two teams and their aircraft variants.

The F-35 is Australia’s newest fighter, purchased to replace the RAAF’s Classic Hornets that were in service since 1985 and retired in late 2021.

Over the coming years, Australia will buy 72 as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program, with all expected to be fully operational by the end of this year.

At the time of writing, 59 are believed to have landed on Australian soil.

The aircraft comes in three variants: the F-35A — purchased by Australia — is a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version; the F-35B is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the final F-35C is the carrier type (CV).

VMFA-314 Maintenance Control Chief Gunnery Sergeant Michael Mann said units conducted pre-load inspections, proficiency loading and downloading of ordnance, including AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-To-Air Missiles and Captive Air Training Missiles.

“The significance of us being able to use components from one F-35 model to another, from two independent units, is monumental for our ability to accomplish the mission safely and efficiently, even when faced with global supply chain constraints,” he said.

“During my six years in the field and experience with multiple platforms, I have not witnessed such a capability.”

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