Marines Activate First F-35 Operational Squadron

The Marine Corps officially welcomed its first F-35B operational squadron on Nov. 20 during a ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos spoke at the event, during which the service re-designated Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121, formerly an F/A-18 squadron, as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, the unit that will oversee F-35B tactical operational training at Yuma. Marine officials said this transition marked an important milestone for the service, and for the Defense Department overall, as the F-35 strike fighter progresses from a testing and training platform towards full-scale operations. Lockheed Martin officially transferred the first three operational-coded F-35Bs to the Marine Corps during the event, according to a company release. With these three airplanes, the company has now delivered 16 F-35Bs to the marines. The other 13 are assigned to Eglin AFB, Fla., where they support pilot and maintainer training at the joint F-35 schoolhouse there. The F-35B is slated to replace the marines’ F/A-18s, AV-8Bs, and EA-6Bs. (See also MCAS Yuma’s Facebook site and Reuters report via the Chicago Tribune.)