Marine Corps forms new fighter jet squadron

The Marine Corps is forming the first squadron of pilots to fly the next-generation strike fighter jet, months after lawmakers raised concern that there was a rush to end the testing of the aircraft that has had technical problems.
Associated Press
Nov 21, 2012

So far, two veteran pilots of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing have been trained to fly the F-35B. They are becoming the first members of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 that will debut Tuesday at a ceremony at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

The first F-35B arrived Friday, and 15 more are coming during the next year. The Defense Department has pumped a half a billion dollars into upgrading the facilities, hangars and runways at the base to make way for the supersonic fighter jet named Lightning II, officials said.

The squadron's pilots are expected to fly the aircraft by year's end.

The Marines are the first in the military taking the steps toward putting the planes in operation. The F-35B would replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier.

"It's a pretty big milestone that a lot of people are looking at and judging," said Marine Capt. Staci Reidinger, a spokeswoman at the Yuma base. "The lessons learned will be shared."

(Click the photo to see the jet fighter picture in full.)

Tuesday's inauguration comes only months after leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee suggested that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rushed a decision to develop the Marine Corps version of the fighter jet.

In a letter sent in February to the Pentagon chief, Sens. Carl Levin, the committee chairman, and John McCain, the panel's top Republican, questioned whether the F-35B had met the criteria to warrant an end to its probation. The F-35B had been on a two-year probation because of "significant testing problems."

Levin, D-Mich., and McCain, R-Ariz., wrote that the program "has enjoyed some success over the last few months, after several years of having fallen short." But they said "more problems with the F-35B's structure and propulsion, potentially as serious as those that were originally identified a year ago, have been found. This is salient where the F-35B has completed only 20 percent of its developmental test plan to date. Your decision, therefore, appears at least premature."

Levin declined to comment on the squadron. McCain did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.

The developer of the aircraft, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., is building three versions of the F-35 — one each for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and some foreign forces.

Schedule delays and cost overruns have dogged the F-35's development, making it the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program ever. Ten years in, the total F-35 program cost has jumped from $233 billion to an estimated $385 billion. Recent estimates suggest the entire program could exceed $1 trillion over 50 years.

Aviation safety consultant and retired Marine Corps Col. Pete Field, who served as the former director of the Naval Test Pilot School, said the Marine Corps' F-35B is the most complicated of the three versions because it can take off and land vertically in less than 500 feet of space, allowing it to be launched from small Navy ships and to drop down in confined areas.

One of the problems earlier on in its development was it was heavier than predicted, which would have compromised its unique ability to take off and land vertically, Field said.

It was lightened substantially, but Field said that could also mean structural problems in the long run.

"It remains to be seen if the F-35B has a long life and is structurally sound," said Field, who was the chief test pilot for the F/A-18. "We won't know for two to three years after it's been in operation. If nothing crops up, perhaps the engineers have done their best work."

Its sophisticated stealth capabilities mean that like the Air Force's F-22, the aircraft can fly into enemy territory without being detected by radar.

"All we can do is hope that they have solved all the program problems and that they've got a pretty good airplane," Field said.

Officials at Lockheed Martin Corp. say they have corrected the problems with the aircraft's structure and propulsion in the development phase. The fixes addressed cracking in the interior bulkhead and the inadequate fitting of doors atop the plane that open to allow extra air to reach the engines, among other issues.

There were no accidents or close calls by pilots testing the F-35B, said company spokesman Jack Giese.

The commanding officer of the new squadron, Lt. Col. Jeffrey B. Scott, said the F-35B will give the nation a "giant leap" in its strategic capabilities by being able to drop in quickly to remote trouble spots without the need of having to be launched from a big deck Navy ship. Since the F-35 variants share similarities, the aircraft also will unify the military's air power.

"It flies extremely well. It's got a lot of great capabilities and it is growing into those capabilities," he said, adding later: "If you look at the history of any aircraft during development, this has had no more problems than any other previous aircraft, and we have the engineering solutions."




Nothing good will come of this.


The Endless War.

Thomas Jefferson warned of "entangling alliances."

Pres. Eisenhower warned of the "military industrial complex."

Washington's bought and paid for politicos vote the funds to keep the U.S. war machine hummin'.

"And it's one, two, three, what are we fightin' for?"


"We've always been at war with Eastasia" - "Nineteen Eighty-Four"


Don't worry, their robbing from us military retirees to keep things going. 2 healthcare premium increases in one year for a 30% hike, and now they are throwing retirees off of the lower out of pocket expense HMO plan and on to the high deductible, high copay fee for service plan if you live more than 40 miles from a military hospital. Couple that with the fact that the COLAs are either non-existent, or paltry. Next thing they will get rid of is the retirees pension. What a great way of repaying those who served and fought the politicos wars for them and spent their prime earning years getting paid peanuts. Have you noticed that in all the budget deals not once is it mentioned that the politicians cut their pay or benefits? Look for them to give themselves another pay raise next year.


Who is their?


Problems with reading comprehension skills?


Actually my comprehension skills are just fine. I was just questioning who you were referring too.

As a taxpayer, I think it is outrageous to not support service members and veterans with decent wages, health care, and pensions. I have no problem with paying a bit more taxes to do so.

So back to my question...who they are? From everything I have read, it is primarily Republicans who are trying to cut veterans benefits. I just hope you realize that.

Oh, and by the way, it should have been they're, not their. On Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the excellent public education I received to know the difference.


Actually it is both. The only thing that both sides will agree to cut is Defense spending. The current wave of cuts that military retirees are experiencing in healthcare benefits were drawn up and approved in when Dems were in charge of both chambers. The additional cuts are coming out of the Republican controlled house. It makes no difference, they seem to think they are safe from scrutiny if they just hit the DOD. With the decreasing number of Americans (including Congress) who haven't served, many haven't a clue what cutting benefits to active and retired military will do. Apparently they don't care if history repeats itself. Google hollow force (armed forces). Doing this will only cause experienced soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to leave the service, resulting in a hollow force (meaning mostly inexperienced troops on their first hitch, with very little experience and leadership to oversee them). This is nothing but a short term fix that will result in a long term problem of decreased retention. The same thing happened in the 70s and it took more than a decade to recover. The military's Joint Chiefs of Staff have warned Congress about this, but they aren't listening. I've spoken personally with Sherrod Brown, Rob Portman, Bob Latta, and Marcy Kaptur. To be honest, and it was a surprise to me, the only one that seems to get it and seems genuinely committed to ensuring nothing is taken away from veteran's and military retirees is Sherrod Brown which is part of the reason he was one of the few Dems I voted for in the election. In a nutshell, by they I mean most of the politicians in Washington.


Before 1947 the air force was a branch of the army as the other services had their own air force.
I guess if the Air Force could land on carriers, we wouldn't need that any more.


As has been more than proven in the past few wars, the Air Force was the deciding factor, and saved alot of good mens lives. Anyone advocating for its abolishment has mush for brains or knows little about modern warfare methods.


Omg, (United States Army Air Corps)
My dad was in it.


I was in Basic Training as a Private one day,an Airman Basic the next day,and an Airman 3rd Class the next week.Obviously it was right at change over in ranking.I am as big of supporter of The Air Force as there is,but we have gone beyond our needs.In outer space you can travel at Mach 30,in an A/C depending on cockpit pressure,suit's etc.mach 5 is about the limit.We have all the aircraft we need to handle the type warfare we could encounter today.Those middle east pilots will run before they lock on anyways.


In my opinion, if the Air Force is so great, why do the other branches of the service still need their own? Perhaps someone with less mush can answer.

Also what does the cost of health care have to do with it?


The air force is in charge of heavy bombers, Most aerial recon along with NORAD (The actual missles). The other branches while having a air dept helps ground tactic where the air force cannot reach. Say a invasion heads more than 1500 miles inland the airforce cannot lend on demand support as the navy and marine units can.


Sound like the way a bureaucrat would answer. Same way they would explain why we needed a Dept. of Homeland security instead of letting the CIA and the FBI handle it.


It is a huge bureacracy, The Air Force is a major part of our defense system though. If they were combined with the navy the funding would be cut to build more ships, If combined with the Amry again they would cut funding for more ground based equipment, ect ect. Keeping them seperate avoids conflictions of funding and training for specialties.
BTW the CIA is not allowed to work within the US, That is the realm of the FBI. DHS is there to help them communicate and compile intel but they have expanded to almost 20 times the size of either of those two depts. We really do not need a DHS, We need a president and cabinent that will communicate with each other. We fought the cold war for 50 years with everything working fine, Then its over and they can no longer communicate? The president should lead and keep his minions in line, If he needs a entire dept to try to sift through things he is not doing his job and making his dept work.


Actually in addition to what you mentioned, the AF provides close air support for troops on the ground, moves nearly all the materials and equipment into the theater of operations to support the war, provides the vast majority of in theater intelligence, and provides the lead in cyber (computer) warfare. The other services have planes but they provide a very limited role. Naval aircrafts primary mission is protection of the naval fleet and bases.

@OMG, you seem to believe you know an awful lot for someone who likely has never served. Ask anyone who has served, whether it be Army, Marine, etc. how important the Air Force has been the past 20 yrs. Those troops on the ground are certainly thankful the AF exists. We may have different missions but we all work together as a well oiled machine toward the ultimate goal of defending our country and her ideals.


Judging from your answer, you aren't aware of the capabilities of today's Air Force. The AF can provide short notice forward support, including bombers, logistics, fighters, and close air support anywhere in the world. Todays AF planes are so sophisticated that most of them cannot even be detected by the enemy until they have already done the damage and left the area.


@ OMG.LOL.WT_ writes:

"Why do the other branches of the service still need their own?"

Public and private jobs, prestige, tradition, inter-service rivalry, but mostly Congressional pork barrel spending which means - J-O-B-S.


Gee, I heard throughout the campaign, The government can't create jobs.



So if you pay a member of your household to perform a task like mow the lawn, have you "created" a job?

Has the total monetary wealth of your household been enhanced or did you just shuffle money around?

BTW: Basel III is ruling that gold is equal to cash and bonds and is therefore money.


Here is why cont-ango is wrong. He admitted he is a non-vet. He has no experience.


Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.


"There are more horses asses than there are horses."


“Kill them all. God will recognize his own.”

- Arnaud Amalric, Cistercian monk (attributed)


The meek will inherit the Earth after the aggressive have killed one another.

- Anonymous.


@ 4shizzle:

There were numerous "sons & daughters of gods" in Greco-Roman mythology.


@ 4shizzle:

Opinion is truth?

How can you possibly worship a god who is the product of a rape?


@ con
I hope that you are listening FULLY to to Dr.Lutzer, from your ex-town of Chicago.


On second thought, no , you aren't, because your response came too quickly.