Marine Corps F-35B Makes its Red Flag Air Combat Debut
The Marine Corps’ next-generation fighter took to the skies last week with its military contemporaries during Red Flag, the military’s premier advanced aerial combat training exercise.
Six jets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 flew to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on the north edge of Las Vegas, to join with nearly 100 aircraft for the Red Flag 16-3, the third of four air-to-air exercises the Air Force is hosting this year in the vast Nevada Test and Training Range. Aircraft participating in the exercise, which began July 11 and runs through July 29, are practicing a wide range of missions including aerial combat, attack and close-air support in mock war games against opposing forces.
This Red Flag marks a debut of sorts for the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and VMFA-121, which one year ago became the military’s first operational F-35 squadron. Last December, the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Ariz.-based squadron practiced expeditionary operations while supporting 1st Marine Division units during exercise Steel Knight across southern California, and it has continued to build up its flight and operational experience ahead of this first large-scale, multi-service exercise.