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It’s Official: A US Marine Corps F-35C Squadron is Aircraft Carrier Ready

F-35C. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

A U.S. Marine Corps F-35C squadron is ready to deploy on an aircraft carrier for the first time in history.

Marine aviators finished an intensive pre-deployment training cycle during which they qualified for carrier operations.

The Black Knights 

Last week, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 “The Black Knights” conducted their final integrated training cycle with the USS Abraham Lincoln and Carrier Strike Group 3.

The Black Knights are the first Marine Corps squadron to deploy on board an aircraft carrier with the F-35C, which is the carrier version of the 5th generation fighter jet.

“Completing this exercise is a critical phase in the training cycle and comes as the next big step for our squadron as we continue to integrate the F-35C into the carrier air wing,” Lieutenant Colonel Brendan M. Walsh, the commanding officer of VMFA-314, said in a press release.

During their pre-deployment training, the Marine pilots worked with the USS Abraham Lincoln’s air wing, including its E/A-18G Growler, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, E-2D Hawkeye, MH-60R/S Sea Hawk, and CMV-22 Osprey fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.

“The ability to bring the F-35C to Carrier Air Wing Nine allows us to fill a significant role as an instrumental force multiplier. By leveraging our aircraft’s stealth and sensor capabilities we are able to provide the other platforms we work alongside with critical intelligence and battlespace awareness thought previously unobtainable by any of the Marine Corps legacy platforms,” the Marine aviator added.

The Black Knights were the first Marine Corps squadron to transition to the F-35C from the older F/A-18A/C Hornet fighter jets. They received their first stealth aircraft in January of last year and reached full operational capability in July.

“Our squadron is proud to have pioneered the F-35C program through the stand-up and transition to the DoD’s newest fighter aircraft, completing this phase of training now allows our squadron to shift our focus to the next task at hand, the Marine Corps first deployment aboard an aircraft carrier with the F-35C Lightning II early next year,” Major Zachary P. Hartnett, the executive officer of the VMFA-314, added.

The Marine Corps plans to purchase about 80 F-35Cs, while the Navy approximately 260.

The F-35: A Versatile Aircraft 

Lockheed Martin designed and is producing three versions of the F-35.

The F-35A is the conventional take-off version of the aircraft and the more common one.

The F-35B is the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) iteration of the aircraft and can take off from very small surfaces, much like a helicopter but then transition to a fixed-wing aircraft while in flight. It was designed specifically for the U.S. Marine Corps.


F-35C. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Finally, the F-35C is the aircraft carrier version of the aircraft and comes with a more robust structure and landing gear that can withstand the enormous pressure of carrier operations.

The reason why there are three iterations of the same aircraft lies with the multinational and multi-branch customers for the aircraft. In the U.S. military alone, the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are all buying the aircraft, but they also all have different missions and infrastructure.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist and military expert specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.