The US Marine Corps has officially stood-up its firstoperational Lockheed Martin F-35B squadron when VMFA-121 turned in its Boeing F/A-18Hornets for the new jets in a ceremony earlier today (November 20).
This is an F-35A destined for the USAF’s portion of the operational test program–it’s NOT an F-35B (Lockheed Martin photo)
Also, the unit took delivery of three F-35Bs from Lockheed(though at least one of them arrived last Friday), among them BF-19 and BF-20,which are eventually going to be used for operational testing with the JointOperational Test Team at Edwards AFB, California. The two other operationaltest jets, BF-17 and BF-18, are flying at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, insupport of developmental test. VMFA-121 will eventually receive 16 jets.
However, the Marines say they are not bound by thecompletion or even the results of an operational test. The Marines might simplydeclare the F-35B operational once they have 10 deployable jets with requisiteflight envelope and software (Block 2B), two shifts of maintainers and theirgear, and, of course, trained aircrews.
As an aside, the Marines have found a temporary work aroundto the F-35 Autonomic Logistics Information System’s (ALIS) vulnerability tohacking. Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office are working on a permanentfix.