Approximately one dozen, fully-operational F-35B Lightning IIs embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) Oct. 8 during routine training in the eastern Pacific.
The F-35Bs are assigned to U.S. Marine Corps’ Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force. 3rd MAW paved the way for the first F-35B squadron in 2012 and will stand up the first F-35C squadron specifically designed for traditional aircraft carriers in 2020.
Lt. Col. John Dirk, commanding officer, VMFA 122, highlighted the importance of being able to conduct the training in a joint environment and stated the training was a success.
“The training went exceedingly well. We were able to sustain a high sortie rate, with a high condition of readiness, while interoperating with multiple ships and aircraft across a range of mission sets,” said Lt. Col. Dirk. “To fight together we have to train together, and there is no better Navy-Marine Corps training than living together, briefing together, and flying off of Navy ships where we can strengthen our relationships, mature our tactics, and exercise the capabilities of the present for the challenges of the future.
Earlier this year, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps stressed the value of partnering Marine forces with surface combatants. Particular emphasis was placed on combining Landing Helicopter Assault and Dock (LHA/LHD) ships with superior aviation capabilities unique to the F-35B.
“This was the deployment of the largest number of F-35s ever put to sea, and for two weeks we put sortie rates to the test, deck cycles to the test, and multi-ship control to the test, all while stressing the communication links and tactics that will make us successful in any combat environment, anywhere in the world, as a joint Navy-Marine Corps team,” said Dirk.
Capt. Luke Frost, commanding officer, USS America, said having the F-35s train with America was an opportunity to improve joint warfighting capability between the Navy and Marine Corps.
“America and VMFA 122 are a perfect fit,” said Frost. “Any action, at any level, to bring the Navy and Marine Corps together to form a more effective and lethal warfighting team is important work that America is proud to be a part of.”