The US Marine Corps has received its first carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II, marking the 36th and final delivery of a Joint Strike Fighter in 2014.
Lockheed Martin says the 22 December delivery of aircraft CF-19 meets the 36 aircraft delivery target for 2014, and marks the 109th overall delivery of operational F-35s to the USA and partner operators.
The first USMC F-35C out of a planned 80 will be assigned to the US Navy’s VFA-101 “Grim Reapers” squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, based at Eglin AFB. After delivery CF-19 will be used for F-35C pilot training.
Furthermore, the first two Royal Australian Air Force F-35As have been delivered to Luke AFB in Arizona – home of the international F-35A training centre.
“In the near future, international and US students will be teamed together learning how to effectively employ the fifth-generation strike fighter,” the US Air Force says.
The first RAAF F-35A was delivered to the base on 18 December, with the second arriving a few days later.
US Air Force
Australia is the first international partner out of nine to arrive for training at Luke AFB. Pilots from nations including Italy, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey will also undertake training at the base.
"Today we take another tremendous step forward in our transition to the F-35 here at Luke," says Brig Gen Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "Luke's mission has been to train the world's greatest fighter pilots. We will continue on that legacy as we train the world's best F-35A pilots."
The Australian flightcrew’s training will be conducted in conjunction with the 61st fighter squadron, while the 62nd fighter squadron is expected to stand-up in June, to be joined by partner nations Italy and Norway. Flight operations for the 62nd are scheduled to begin in September 2015, the USAF says.
Of the 36 aircraft delivered in 2014, 23 are USAF ‘A’ models, two are RAAF ‘A’ models, four are USMC ‘B’ models and seven are ‘C’ models – six for the USN and one for the USMC.