The US Marine Corps' F-35B initial training fleet at Eglin AFB, Florida, has started local area flights, the US Air Force announced 22 May.
"Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) has had an exciting year with the arrival of our first three aircraft in January, the official roll out ceremony in February and now generating sorties along with other military service and contract partners here," says USMC Lt Col David Berke, commander of VMFAT-501.
USMC Maj Joseph Bachmann, one of two test pilots assigned to the base, flew the first F-35B local area flight.
The Marines will initially fly the local area operations flying the F-35B in conventional mode before moving on to short takeoffs and vertical landings (STOVL) mode operations.
If all goes smoothly, the 33rd Fighter Wing, which hosts VMFAT-501 and USAF's 58th Fighter Squadron, should start the F-35's operational utility evaluation later this year. A successful evaluation would enable the USAF and USMC to start the F-35 training syllabus.