[Avionics Today 08-03-2015] The U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II aircraft has reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) after seven weeks of at-sea testing aboard an aircraft carrier. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona, is the first squadron in military history to become operational with an F-35 variant, following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), which concluded July 17.
|F-35B during at-sea testing. Photo: Pratt & Whitney
"I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees," said Gen. Joseph Dunford, commandant of the Marine Corps. "VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship. It is capable of conducting Close Air 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."
Dunford stated that he has his full confidence in the F-35B's ability to support Marines in combat, predicated on years of concurrent developmental testing and operational flying. “The F-35B's ability to conduct operations from expeditionary airstrips or sea-based carriers provides our Nation with its first 5th generation strike fighter, which will transform the way we fight and win," Dunford said.
The F-35 will eventually replace three legacy platforms: the AV- 8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler.