Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II: Making Progress

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER: The Marine Corps performed a significant maneuver today with the Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the STOVL F-35B Lightning II.

The BF-2, a test version of the fighter jet, accomplished its first vertical landing and conversion back to normal flight. This is an important step for the fighter that the Corps has scheduled to replace three other types of combat aircraft in its aging fleet: the EA-6B Prowler, AV-8B Harrier and F-18 Hornet.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos has communicated that the Corps will track the progress of the new aircraft to ensure engineering and test points are accomplished over the next two years.

Despite some recent concerns over performance, cost and schedule, the Marine Corps contends that it is dedicated to the success of this program – and being able to operate and land virtually anywhere in the world while supporting the continuous tactical air missions the Corps demands.

The STOVL JSF will carry more ordnance with greater range than the F/A-18 Hornet, operate from austere expeditionary environments like the AV-8B Harrier, and ultimately possess electronic warfare technology similar to the EA-6B Prowler.

The Marine Corps anticipates reaching initial operational capability for the JSF F-35B in 2012-2013. This first proven capability step will include the a training squadron of 15 aircraft in VMFAT-501 at Eglin AFB, an operational test and evaluation detachment of 4 aircraft at Edwards AFB, and VMFA-332, the Corps’ first operational squadron of 10 aircraft, at MCAS Yuma.

The VMFA-332 aircraft will be equipped, manned and trained to execute Marine missions and deploy ashore or afloat from U.S. Navy amphibious assault (L-Class) ships.

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