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US Marine Corps Clears First F-35B Squadron for Active Combat

After winning the bid in the Joint Strike Fighter competition nearly 15 years ago, the first squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighters has been cleared for active combat by the US Marine Corps. The F-35B is the short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant of the platform.

“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 has achieved initial operational capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committee,” declared Marine Commandant General Joseph Dunford on July 31st. “VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearance, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship. It is capable of conducting support, offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support, escort, and armed reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force.”

“This accomplishment is an affirmation that the F-35 program is on track to deliver essential 5th generation warfighting capabilities to our US services and international partners,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, detailed in a statement. “It is also a reminder that we still have work ahead to deliver the full warfighting capability required by all three services and our partners while we continue our successful efforts to drive costs out of the program.”

Prime contractor of the F-35B Lockheed Martin stated: “Fifty years from now, historians will look back on the success of the F-35 Program and point to Marines Corps IOC as the milestone that ushered in a new era in military aviation. To every Marine in the Corps, congratulations on this significant achievement and we look forward to supporting the Marine Air Ground Task Force as you execute your vital mission!”

Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce who jointly developed the vertical liftoff engine used on the F-35B platform also congratulated the Marines in a combined statement.

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