The Marines have stood up their first squadron of F-35 Bs at MCAS Yuma.
But the Marine Corps approach to the aircraft is built on recognition that it is a C2 and Information Warfare aircraft, which will be a central piece to the ACE or Aviation Combat Element of the MAGTF.
To shape the approach, to determine the evolution of the aircraft is firmly rooted in a triangular approach taking shape at Yuma.
Two squadrons will be established and are the operators. MAWTS-1 will develop tactics and training for the F-35 B in conjunction with the other aviation elements for the ACE.
And VMX-22 will focus on the technologies and systems of the platforms making up the evolving ACE for the MAGTF.
During the re-designation ceremony, General Amos, the USMC Commandant, highlighted the nature of change and the role of the F-35 in this process.
The F-35B is the future of Marine tactical fixed wing aviation. As many of you know, today the F-35 begins replacing three models of tactical jets the Marine Corps currently operates. In fact, VMFA(AW)-121 gave up their F/A-18D Hornets just a short three months ago after returning from a highly successful WESTPAC deployment.
The F-35 will replace our Hornets, our AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft and our EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft.
Replacing so many different platforms with a single, multi-capable aircraft represents a new way of operating and thinking. This jet possesses “eye-watering” capabilities.
The things it can do are most impressive to a couple of old F-4 Phantom guys like General John Hudson… and myself. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about most of those capabilities here!!
But, suffice it to say this is not your father’s fighter!
VMFA-121 is at the forefront of one of the most significant transition periods in the 100- year history of Marine Aviation, as we replace nearly every aircraft in the Corps between 2005 and 2025.
Certainly, it is the most significant transition in quite some time, maybe since the introduction of the helicopter to our forces in the post World War II 1940s. But, being on the forefront is not new to this squadron, the “Green Knights” have been a storied squadron since they were established just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor…..
I noted earlier that having F-35Bs in Yuma shows tangible progress in this vitally important aircraft program.
There is additional progress all over our Corps today regarding fielding the F35B. I call your attention to the 7 F-35Bs currently at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, conducting flight test activities, the 11 F-35Bs now at our training squadron, VMFAT-501, at Eglin AFB, Florida and the 2 United Kingdom F-35Bs that have joined 501 and have also begun training there.
We are making strides in every aspect of this program. Aircraft are being produced tested and flown, pilots are being trained in the air and in the simulators and aircraft mechanics and technicians are learning to ply their trade on this magnificent jet. Yuma will eventually have five operational squadrons, and be responsible for operational evaluation of the F35B. MCAS Yuma will continue to be a busy base.