The US 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group is the first continental US Navy and US Marine Corps force to deploy with the F-35B.
The US Navy say in a news release that while in the US 5th Fleet area of operations, the amphibious force is trained and equipped to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theatre security cooperation and forward naval presence operations whilst deployed. The group is currently in the Middle East, reportedly near the Horn of Africa.
“As a forward-deployed force we are appropriately postured to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the world’s most important sea lanes,” said Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1.
“The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region.”
Following a six-month pre-deployment training period the Essex ARG/MEU was certified for deployment. According to the US Navy news release, the training consisted of three integrated at-sea periods which collectively ensured the Navy/Marine Corps team is at its highest level of readiness to accomplish missions across the range of military operations. VMFA-211 was certified for deployment across all mission essential tasks to include deep air support, close air support, offensive air support and electronic warfare.
“When combined with inherent capabilities of the 13th MEU and Essex ARG, the F-35B strengthens the amphibious force through new and increased multi-mission capabilities, making our team a more lethal and survivable crisis response force,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.