Military Aviation

First operational F-35C squadron in the Marine Corps declared Safe-For-Flight

VMFA-314 and the U.S. Navy’s F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125, diligently worked together toward this historic accomplishment even while conducting precautionary measures to stem the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

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

The Black Knights are also the first operational F-35C squadron in the Marine Corps.

As told by Gunnery Sgt. Jon Holmes, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar / 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, in the article First Marine F-35C Squadron Attains Next Aviation Milestone, VMFA-314 and the U.S. Navy’s F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125, diligently worked together toward this historic accomplishment even while conducting precautionary measures to stem the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

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 Jan. 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.

Lemoore, California (Jun. 5, 2019) The first Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 “Black Knights” F-35C aircraft from Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore flown by CAPT Tommy Beau Locke from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 “Rough Raiders” flies in formation over the Sierra’s with the VFMA-314 squadron F/A-18A++, flown by LtCol Cedar Hinton aircraft “passing the lead” as part of the F/A-18 Sundown with the Black Knights.

“The achievement of this certification represents years of hard work and detailed coordination across the entire USMC and Naval Aviation Enterprise,”said Lt. Col. Cedar Hinton, commanding officer of VMFA-314. “The ‘Black Knights’ have met or exceeded every challenge faced during this transition, and I am extremely proud to be a part of this fantastic squadron. Today’s achievement marks a significant milestone and the beginning of a new chapter in our storied legacy. The F-35C advances our capability well into the next generation of fighter-attack aircraft and will keep our squadron, and our service, relevant for decades to come.”

The certification process encompasses areas such as equipment, personnel and programs. Requirements include the installation and operation of management information systems and their accompanying support networks. There is also a requirement for operational F-35C squadrons to maintain robust maintenance programs and complete various inspections ranging from conventional weapons technical proficiencies to safety. Squadron personnel complete a transition curriculum and maintain specific competencies in accordance with Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures and Standardization guidelines.

As already reported, aviation history was made when 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing welcomed its first F-35C Lightning II to MCAS Miramar on Jan. 21, 2020. The 5th Generation aircraft – piloted by Hinton – marked the arrival of the U.S. Marine Corps’ first F-35C to Fleet Marine Force.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35C Lightning II VFA-125 Rough Raiders, NJ406, 169160 / 2018

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.

Photo credit: Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell / U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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