Military Aviation

F-35B almost ready for first combat deployment

“The F-35B, specifically because of its short take off and vertical landing capabilities, opens up a lot of basing options, specifically expeditionary basing operations that we haven’t had in the past,” Lt Col. Chad Vaughn, Marine Aircraft Group 11 F-35B pilot 

The F-35B will be making its first combat deployment aboard USS Essex in the middle of this year. VMFA-211 will embark aboard USS Essex for the deployment.

The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship recently underwent its pre-deployment training off California. The F-35B also traveled to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) on MacDill Air Force Base (AFB) so that CENTCOM senior leadership will be aware of the jet’s capabilities once it enters the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

“For all the versions of the F-35, we combine a very robust sensor package and probably the best group of sensors that’s being flown on any aircraft in the world right now in terms of how varied they are in their capabilities,” said Lt Col. Chad Vaughn, an F-35B pilot stationed at Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11, out of Yuma, Ariz. “This version of the F-35B, specifically because of its short take off and vertical landing capabilities, opens up a lot of basing options, specifically expeditionary basing operations that we haven’t had in the past.”

As explained by Lance Cpl. Taryn Escott in the article F-35B visits CENTCOM as it prepares to enter theater, the jet can conduct full spectrum combat operations from simple to complex for the Amphibious Readiness Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The F-35B provides strategic attack capabilities that allow it to destroy or neutralize adversary targets that threaten ARG / MEU Marines, Sailors and other U.S. or coalition assets.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35B Lightning II VMFA-121 Green Knights, VK00, 169164 / 2015

“What we want to do is make sure this jet helps out the entire MAGTF, specific for MAGTF operations, obviously the Marine rifleman but everybody we’re supporting on the ground,” said Vaughn.

Advanced avionics equip the pilot with real-time access to battle-area information with overall coverage. With this technology, commanders in the air, on land or sea are able to receive data collected from the F-35B’s sensors that will empower them with a high-fidelity view of ongoing operations.

“The F-35B is more than just an aircraft,” said Lt Col. Jaime Macias, Chief of Plans at Marine Corps Forces Central Command. “It’s a system of systems that’s flying; its got sensors and anti-axis aerial denial capabilities.”

The F-35B combines next-generation characteristics with radar-evading stealth and advanced logistical support with a wide-range sensor package over any fighter aircraft in history.

With the addition of the F-35B, ARG/MEU missions will become more lethal and survivable on land, air, and sea. It increases the efficiency or ARG/MEU through next-generation technology, lethality, and battle-space awareness. The F-35B also provides war-fighting capabilities for the future of CENTCOM, ARG/MEU, and Joint Force.

“Today is a big deal not only for CENTCOM but for the Marine Corps,” said Macias. “This is the newest and most-lethal aircraft that the Joint Force has, and the fact that it’s coming into the CENTCOM theater and potentially seeing some combat operations is a big deal.”

This aircraft brings all of the access and lethal capabilities of a stealth fifth-generation fighter or a modern bomber. It is an all-threat environment air support platform.

“What the F-35B gives you is multi–role capabilities, so now you have one aircraft that can do a broad range of capabilities and do it to a level that none of the legacy aircraft have been able to do to this day,” said Macias.

The aircraft’s capabilities have been demonstrated during training such as Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, Exercise Red Flag, Agile Lightning, as well as day-to-day training across the fleet. The Marine Corps has activated four squadrons and has over 35,000 flight hours in the aircraft.

“The jet is in the fleet, it’s here it’s now, it’s deploying, it’s deploying with the MEUs,” said Vaughn.

Photo credit: Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg and Lance Cpl. Taryn Escott / U.S. Marine Corps

Artwork courtesy of

Gabriele Barison

Gabriele Barison is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Co-Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. He has flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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