The United States Marine Corps has declared a squadron of 10 F-35B Lightning II aircraft ready for worldwide deployment. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 is the first squadron in US military history to become operational with an F-35 variant after a five-day operational readiness inspection which concluded July 17.
“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,” US Marine Corps Commandant General Joseph F. Dunford said in a statement released July 31.
“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 General added.
The Pentagon, US Department of Defense sees the development as a significant milestone in the continued evolution of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
“The decision was made following a thorough operational readiness inspection, which assessed the Marine Corps’ ability to employ this complex weapon system in an operational environment,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendal said in a statement.
He added that the achievement is a testament to the efforts of the F-35 Joint Program Office and industry team, as well as the hard work and support from the Marine Corps. He also said that this proves the F-35 program is on track to deliver essential 5th generation warfighting capabilities for US and its partners.