F-35 Lightning II has been declared operational by the US Marine Corps following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection. Today the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) that is based in Yuma, Arizona, was officially cleared for worldwide deployment, The Squadron includes 10 of the vertical and/or short take-off and landing (VSTOL) multi-role fighters.
One of the these three variants of the supersonic fifth- generation Lightning II fighter is the F-35B, designed primarily to operate alongside US Marine Corps and Royal Navy. Capable of vertical and short takeoffs, this variant uses a directed thruster and lift fan, this actually allows it to operate without airfields or from aircraft carriers and there is no need for catapult launchers as well. Replacing the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet, and EA-6B Prowler, this variant will also act as the mainstay fixed-wing warplane for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth-Class Carriers.
The F-35B and VMFA-121 have fulfilled the requirements that were laid out to them in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees, Marine Corps Commandant, General Joseph Dunford explained.
According to General Dunford, “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.”
The clearance provided to these variants is based on seven weeks of sea trials, held on an L-Class carrier that composed of Large-Force Exercises and Multiple Live-Ordnance sorties, Dunford elaborated. According to Dunford, The Marines have 50 qualified F-35B pilots and 500 maintenance personnel. Next year, another squadron Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) is scheduled to be the second squadron to go live, this will be followed by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMFA-122) in 2018.