Thursday, October 25, 2012

USMC to stand up 1st operational F-35 squadron in November

An indication of the positive direction of the F-35 program can be found in Yuma, AZ, where the Marine Corps will be standing up it's first operational squadron of F-35s (F-35B's) next month.  That's right, you read that correctly.  Next month:
The U.S. Marine Corps is preparing to begin operations for the first operational F-35 squadron next month at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and officials are optimistic for a mid-month standup despite some challenges ahead.

Key to starting up squadron operations will be a small but growing cadre of maintainers, pilots and aircraft, says Col. Kevin Killea, aviation requirements branch head for the Marine Corps. The first F-35B is expected at Marine Fighter Attack Sqdn. 121 in early November, with the second slated for delivery mid-month.

These will be the first low-rate-initial-production aircraft delivered from prime contractor Lockheed Martin to the Defense Department, and these aircraft will include the 1B software. A total of 16 F-35Bs, the number needed for full operational capability, are expected at the base within the next year, Killea says. 

Thus far there are 11 F-35Bs at Eglin AFB where pilot and maintainer training are taking place.

Yuma has finished all of its infrastructure improvements in order to begin accepting F-35Bs for the new squadron.

IOC, while still a while away, is obviously much closer than critics have maintained it would be.  Even as this is happening, we continue to read dated criticism such as this:
Lockheed Martin first received the contract in 2001 to produce the plane, and there now is little hope that it will be ready for full production and deployment by the projected 2020 date, aviation analysts say.
If that is indeed true, it appears it will have little to do with the aircraft and a lot to do with cuts in spending, numbers of aircraft ordered etc.  It would be nice if critics such as this gave broad statements like this some context.  It might also be nice if they did a little independent research instead of just regurgitating what "aviation analysts say".


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