A flight of four F-35B’s took on a larger group of nine attacking aircraft during the jets recent operational readiness test and won, according to a recent article by ‘BreakingDefense’.
While details of the encounter are largely classified, including what aircraft it went up against, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, USMC deputy commandant for aviation did say that the F-35s faced a threat that “we have never put an F-16 or a Harrier against.”
The F-35B was declared operational by Gen. Joe Dunford, Marine Corps commandant in an announcement at the end of last month.
“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 (Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121) has achieved initial operational capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees. 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.”
In declaring it operational, Dunford described the advanced plane as “capable of conducting close air support, offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance.”
He added that “we still have work ahead to deliver the full warfighting capability required by all three services and our partners”. The US Marine Corps calls the F-35 the “future of tactical aviation,” expecting it to eventually replace three legacy platforms currently in use: the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler.
The United States Marine Corps has trained and qualified more than 50 F-35B pilots and certified about 500 maintenance personnel to support for the F-35B.
VMFA-121’s transition will be followed by Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), an AV-8B squadron, which is scheduled to transition to the F-35B in 2016. In 2018, VMA-311 will conduct its transition to the F-35B.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence have clarified the details surrounding the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and their complement of F-35B strike aircraft as there has been speculation in the media that there was been a change in the delivery programme for the F-35B that may result in delays to the roll out of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability – and that, in an operational emergency, US jets may fly from the Carriers until the UK F35 fleet is ready.
According to the MoD:
“This is not the case. It was always the intention to take a phased approach to ordering F35. We are fully committed to both the F35 and the Queen Elizabeth Carrier programmes -both of which are on track to enter initial maritime operating capability in December 2020 as planned.
We expect Queen Elizabeth carrier to commence sea trials in 2017, and have been clear that UK F35 aircraft will be used for first of class flying trials in 2018.
Our relationship with the US is mutually beneficial and we share a sense of common purpose. In 2012 we signed an agreement to enhance cooperation on carrier operations. Indeed, UK pilots have already flown from US ships in preparation for UK carrier operations.”