First Marine Corps F-35C Arrives at Eglin

The first F-35C built for the Marine Corps touched down at Eglin AFB, Fla., where it will join a Navy unit for training pilots of the carrier-optimized variant of the strike fighter, according to a base release. The airplane arrived at the Florida installation, on Jan. 13 from Lockheed Martin’s production plant in Fort Worth, Texas. It is the first of five Marine Corps F-35Cs that will serve in the pilot training role with the Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 101, states the release. “This is a big day for the Marine Corps tactical air community,” said Lt. Col. J.T. Ryan, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 detachment commander. “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.” In addition to buying 240 F-35B short-takeoff jets, the Marine Corps is on tap to procure 80 F-35Cs for use aboard aircraft carriers. The Marine Corps’ first operational F-35C fleet squadron, VMFA-115, is scheduled to stand up at MCAS Beaufort, S.C., in 2019, states the release. (See also Final F-35 for 2014.)