VMFA-121 becomes first operational F-35 squadron


21 November 2012

By

Dave Majumdar

The US Marine Corps has officially stood-up its first operational Lockheed Martin F-35B squadron when VMFA-121 turned in its Boeing F/A-18 Hornets for the new jets in a ceremony earlier today (November 20).

Also, the unit took delivery of three F-35Bs from Lockheed (though at least one of them arrived last Friday), among them BF-19 and BF-20, which are eventually going to be used for operational testing with the Joint Operational Test Team at Edwards AFB, California. The two other operational test jets, BF-17 and BF-18, are flying at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in support of developmental test. VMFA-121 will eventually receive 16 jets.

However, the Marines say they are not bound by the completion or even the results of an operational test. The Marines might simply declare the F-35B operational once they have 10 deployable jets with requisite flight envelope and software (Block 2B), two shifts of maintainers and their gear, and, of course, trained aircrews.

As an aside, the Marines have found a temporary work around to the F-35 Autonomic Logistics Information System’s (ALIS) vulnerability to hacking. Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office are working on a permanent fix.

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