U.S. Marine Corps Moves Forward with F-35 Transition
The U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II aircraft reached initial
operational capability (IOC) on July 31, 2015 with a squadron of 10
F-35Bs ready for world-wide deployment.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona,
was the first squadron in military history to become operational with an
F-35 variant after completing years of developmental and operational
testing, followed by an intensive Operational Readiness Inspection
(ORI). This ORI, which included a capstone surge day, demonstrated that
the aircraft and squadron have successfully met all IOC criteria.
"Marine Corps IOC for the F-35B is a significant accomplishment, but we will not stop to celebrate. In addition to aggressively continuing to mature this platform, we will further refine the operational concepts that allow us to fully leverage this transformational capability,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford in a July 2015 statement, when he was serving as Commandant of the Marine Corps. "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."
Dunford added that the F-35B's ability to conduct operations from expeditionary airstrips and sea-based carriers provides our nation and its allies with our first 5th generation strike fighter, which will transform the way the Navy-Marine Corps team fights as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force
The Marine Corps has a program of record to procure 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs, for a total of 420 aircraft. As the future of Marine Corps tactical aviation, the F-35 will eventually replace three legacy platforms: the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler. The transition is scheduled to be complete for active duty
Marine Corps aviation squadrons in fiscal year 2031. It is not a one-for-one swap. Because of the enhanced capabilities of the F-35, this strike fighter will replace a significantly greater number of legacy aircraft.