The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing received the Corps’ first F-35C Lightning II fighter jet on Jan. 21.
The aircraft is assigned to 3rd MAW’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in California. Lt. Col. Cedar Hinton, commanding officer of VMFA-314, flew the aircraft from Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California to MCAS Miramar.
“It should be no surprise that VMFA-314 is once again leading the way into the next generation of fighter attack aircraft,” said Hinton.
The squadron’s history began with its commissioning in 1943 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, as the “Bob’s Cats”. In 1952, they were the first squadron in 3rd MAW to transition to jet aircraft and fly the F-9F Panther. In 1957, they officially became the “Black Knights” with the arrival of the F-4D Skyray. In October 1961, the “Black Knights” were the first Marine Corps squadron to transition to the F-4B Phantom and in 1982, the first in the Department of the Navy to fly the F/A-18 Hornet.
The “Black Knights” have proven themselves time and again from campaigns in the South Pacific to the Vietnam War and from Operation El Dorado Canyon to the Global War on Terror.
The F-35C is one of three variants of F-35 fighter aircraft – the others are F-35A and F-35B – fielded by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is a result of decades of advancements that provide aviation capabilities previously thought unattainable.
The “C” variant was designed to operate from an aircraft carrier (catapult launch and arrested recovery) and is the first 5th generation long-range stealth strike fighter jet designed for that mission. The F-35C’s control surfaces and landing gear are better equipped for carrier operation than the other variants. The F-35C is equipped with larger internal fuel storage, which when combined with its ability to refuel in-flight, extends its range and allows for enhanced flight time when compared to other aircraft.
“Transitioning a squadron into a new aircraft with many new Marines comes with a lot of challenges,” said Hinton. “However, it also provides a unique opportunity to start fresh and build a strong squadron culture from the ground up. We are all extremely excited to ensure the ‘Black Knights’ continue our legacy of leading from the front as we deliver this new capability to 3rd MAW.”