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Marines Receive First F-35C

Eglin AFB, Florida // January 23, 2015

The first F-35C Lightning II, carrier variant, for the U.S. Marine Corps touched-down on the flight line here, Jan. 13, from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to begin training in support of carrier-based operations.

U.S. Marine Lt. Col. J.T. “Tank” Ryan, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 detachment commander and F-35 pilot, delivered the new F-35C to Strike Fighter Squadron 101, the Navy’s only F-35 fleet replacement squadron. This aircraft is the first of five Marine Corps F-35Cs that will be delivered to VFA-101 on Eglin.

Marine F-35 pilots primarily fly F-35Bs – a short take-off vertical landing variant designed to deploy to austere locations and operate aboard amphibious ships

“This is a big day for the Marine Corps tactical air community and a huge honor to be able to deliver our first F-35C,” said Ryan. “It marks the beginning of our training in the carrier variant and puts us that much closer to standing up our first F-35C operational fleet squadron.”

The F-35C model brings 25 percent more range and a bigger weapons bay. It also allows the Marine Corps to fly aboard Navy aircraft carriers, which continues an effective and long-standing tactical air integration program between the Navy and Marine Corps.

“In the past, Marines have been trained to fly the Navy’s F-18 Hornet to share the load of deployment cycles,” said Ryan. “Now, Marine pilots will be flying the F-35C with the Navy’s Carrier Air Wings while deployed aboard aircraft carriers.”

The first operational Marine Corps F-35C fleet squadron, VMFA-115, is scheduled to stand up at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, in 2019.

“It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of the F-35C and an enormous honor to be the first F-35C Marine pilot,” said Ryan. “I look forward to being a part of VFA-101 and the future of what this aircraft will bring to the fight for our Marines.