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Second F-35B Squadron Stands Up At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) performs it’s first flight at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., June 29, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) performs it’s first flight at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., June 29, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

The Marine Corps’ second F-35B Joint Strike Fighter squadron stood up today, as the AV-8B Harrier-flying Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211 became Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211.

A re-designation and change of command ceremony was held at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona today, with Lt. Col. William Maples taking command of the second operational JSF squadron. The squadron flew its final Harrier flight on May 6 and received its first two JSFs three days later.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) performs it’s first flight at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., June 29, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) performs it’s first flight at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., June 29, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

VMFA-121 became operational when initial operational capability was declared on the platform last July.

Due to readiness improvements in the Harrier fleet and ongoing readiness challenges in the F/A-18 Hornet fleet, Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis told USNI News earlier this year that the F-35B transition plan may change, with Hornet squadrons prioritized and the Harrier squadrons flying their legacy planes for a bit longer.

Under current procurement plans, the Marines should receive 20 to 24 planes a year, allowing them to transition two squadrons a year. VMFA-122 will be the next Hornet squadron to transition, followed by VMFA-314 becoming an F-35C squadron to operate off of Navy aircraft carriers. This faster rate of squadron re-designations will “allow me to shut down F-18 squadrons faster” and “get out of the old metal into the new,” Davis told USNI News previously.

  • Jacek Zemło

    This looks a bit weird to me – speeding up the F/A-18 transitions to F-35 while some Hornets are just taken back from the boneyard and some are transferred to USMC from USN units. No one would need these Hornets – or has the fighter gap come THAT far? Would Marine F-35C squadrons be deployed on the carriers’ decks earlier than the Navy ones?

    What is quite understandable, they may need some Harriers until F-35B is fully capable and they may benefit from some ex-RAF Harriers. Also, transitioning F/A-18 units earlier might be a countermeasure against being forced to buy Marine F/A-18E/Fs.

    • USNVO

      Makes sense to me. Remember that the original replacement plan, before the latest replacement plan, had the F-18s replaced earlier but the poor condition of the AV-8B fleet relative to the F-18 fleet as well as their high operating costs caused them to change to phasing out the AV-8Bs first. If the basic conditions have changed, then it makes sense to change the plan. It doesn’t really matter as long as they do it in a measured way that allows the manpower to keep up. Whichever type they replace will get a readiness boost as more aircraft and maintainers will be available for the remaining squadrons. I would expect more tweaking every couple of years. As for the refurbished F-18Cs, they will still be needed down the road since it is only a partial solution to the shortfall.

  • Ed L

    Good for the Marines

  • ULISES VELEZ

    THE F-35B THE HARRIER REPLACEMENT INTO THE 21ST. CENTURY. BUT SUPERSONIC.

  • DaSaint

    Like it or not, F-35’s are becoming operational. There’s a distinct push to get their stealth characteristics up to the front lines, particularly for Pacific operations. The push is in the Pacific, that’s clearer than ever with LCS, Ospreys, P8s, F-35s, etc., all as a means of maintaining a capability gap against China.

  • Don Bacon

    The second F-35 squadron “stands up” with two aircraft, making it non-depoyable like the existing (prototype) F-35 squadron and all the other MC squadrons not deployed or awaiting deployment. The F-35s are not combat-capable and won’t be for the foreseeable future, which is why they haven’t been deployed.
    General Neller testified to the Senate recently: “our non-deployed commands lack sufficient resources to meet the necessary personnel, training, and equipment readiness levels in order to respond today.”
    There is a direct connection between the wasting of billions of dollars on the procurement of useless F-35 prototypes and the lack of O&M funds to operate and maintain operational aircraft.
    The Marine Corps has had a policy of full unit readiness of units deployed and not deployed, but that is out the window now with the procurement of pre-production F-35 prototypes. The MC has procured 45 of these turkeys, and now 12 of them have been assigned to squadrons making them non-deployable. Shame on the Marines. The Navy has been much smarter — none to units.