The Marine Corps on April 2 activated the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 at Eglin AFB, Fla., where it will train pilots in the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant under Air Education and Training Command’s 33rd Fighter Wing at the joint F-35 schoolhouse. This marked the first time a marine unit has been embedded with a USAF wing, which already gained USMC Col. Arthur Tomassetti last fall as deputy wing commander and Navy Capt. Mike Saunders last summer as 33rd Operations Group deputy commander. Despite the F-35 restructure announced in February, Air Force senior leaders have said the Pentagon plans to provide early delivery of F-35 training assets. VMFAT-501 expects to receive its first STOVL aircraft this fall, as does the 33rd FW for the first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. (Now vintage 2008 briefing charts pegged first F-35A CTOL arrival in March 2010.) (Eglin report by Samuel King Jr.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.