The US Marine Corps Declared First Operational F-35C Squadron

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 celebrated the results of over five months of F-35C transition training when they received their Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification (SFFOC) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar March 20, 2020.

SFFOC is an important milestone for VMFA-314’s transition to the F-35C Lightning II from the F/A-18 Hornet. It marks the end of the squadron’s oversight by VFA-125, which was responsible for ensuring that the “Black Knights” received quality training during their temporary relocation to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, from Sep. 2019 to January 2020.

The SFFOC process ensures the squadron is manned with qualified personnel to implement maintenance and safety programs in support of fleet operations. All transitioning squadrons are required to complete this certification prior to independently conducting flight operations.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps will reduce the Primary Aircraft Authorized per squadron of F-35B and C aircraft from 16 to 10,” says the USMC.

The Marine Corps had planned to buy a total of 420 F-35s (353 F-35Bs and 67 F35Cs) by 2031. The service did not respond to request for details on how much its programme of record would be cut, but Cancian says the reduction numbers can be inferred. This would imply buying about 120 to 130 aircraft fewer.

The “C” variant of the F-35 is the first 5th Generation long-range stealth strike fighter designed to operate from both land bases and aircraft carriers. The Lightning II’s control surfaces and landing gear are better equipped for carrier operation than the “A” and “B” variants of the aircraft flown by the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps, respectively.

The F-35C is also 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.

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