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First USMC operational unit receives F-35C

24 January 2020
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VMFA 314 is one of four squadrons that will fly the carrier variant F-35C for the US Marine Corps. Source: US Marine Corps

The US Marine Corps (USMC) has received into service its first operational carrier variant (CV) Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The aircraft, tail number 301, arrived at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California, on 21 January. The milestone came about five years after the first F-35C (tail number 114) was delivered to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for pilot training.

Aircraft 301 will be operated by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 'Black Knights' of the 3rd Marine Air Wing (MAW).

As noted by the USMC, VMFA-314's transition to the F-35C began in June 2019 when it ceased flying the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and began training on its new aircraft type at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore in California.

The USMC is acquiring a mixed fleet of short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B and CV F-35C aircraft. The current plan is for the Corps' current McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier IIs to be replaced by 353 F-35Bs, and its F/A-18 Hornets to be replaced by 67 F-35Cs. The USMC plans to transition four F-35C squadrons that will be assigned to US Navy (USN) Carrier Air Wings for deployments.

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