First operational carrier deployment for USMC F-35Cs

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-314 (VMFA-314) made history as the first USMC unit to deploy the F-35C Lightning II aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier, as it departed with Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9) aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on January 3.

The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) departed on a scheduled deployment in support of global maritime security operations. The CSG is led by the command staff of CSG-3 and consists of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, with CVW-9 aboard supported by a variety of US Navy vessels.

F-35C Lightning II, assigned to VMFA-314, arrives aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as the unit prepares to deploy alongside the Navy as an integrated part of Carrier Strike Group 3. USMC/ 1stLt Charles Allen

The units of the Abraham Lincoln CSG commenced the pre-deployment training cycle back in April 2021, and recently completed a month-long integrated exercise where Commander, US 3rd Fleet certified the strike group ready for deployment. The CSG has deployed with the most advanced air wing in the US Navy, with a mix of fourth- and fifth-generation platforms, including the USMC's fifth-generation F-35Cs, which are configured for catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) operations.

Nicknamed “The Black Knights”, VMFA-314 have been working towards this deployment via multiple workups in 2021 with CVW-9 on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, these work ups concluded in December, with VMFA-314 completing their final integrated training cycle along other elements of CSG-3.

USS Abraham Lincoln
The USS Abraham Lincoln departs San Diego Bay, California, January 3 for a scheduled deployment, led by CSG-3. US Navy

Maj Gen Bradford Gering, 3rd MAW commanding general said: “The Black Knight’s deployment of F-35C Lightning II aboard USS Abraham Lincoln is the newest chapter in the Marine Corps’ long history of naval integration.

“The upcoming deployment represents years of hard work and innovation by the Marines and Sailors of VMFA-314, MAG-11, and 3rd MAW. It also reinforces our commitment to fielding the most lethal and ready Navy-Marine Corps force as we project warfighting capabilities throughout the Indo-Pacific region, or globally wherever our nation calls,” Gering concluded.

VMFA-314 were the first USMC unit to transition to the F-35C in January 2020, after retiring its legacy F/A-18A/C Hornets. “Our ability to operate the F-35C in the Pacific greatly increases the Marine Corps’ naval expeditionary force capabilities by providing us the capacity to employ the most advanced electronic warfare capabilities on any aircraft today in support of fleet operations,” said VMFA-314's commanding officer, Lt Col Brendan Walsh.