Second Iwakuni-based F-35B squadron declares Full Operational Capability

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 has reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) and is ready to support its full complement of intended missions, according to a May 17 Pentagon press release.

The release stated that “a significant part” of the milestone was the establishment of the 32 F-35B stealth fighters permanently forward-based as part of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 12 in the Indo-Pacific region. The transition to FOC, according to the Pentagon, occurred on schedule.

US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, May 17, 2022. USMC/Sgt. Jackson Ricker

The F-35 Lightning II will eventually replace the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler in all units across the US Marine Corps. On October 16, 2020, VMFA-242, known as Bats, was re-designated as an F-35B squadron and on September 9, 2021, the squadron attained Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

MAG-12 received the first forward-based F-35B squadron in January 2017, when VMFA-121 relocated to US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. With the addition of VMFA-242, MAG-12 is now the only forward-based unit in the Indo-Pacific with two permanently based F-35B squadrons.

“This declaration provides added capability and capacity, enhances our posture, and ensures that we are able to effectively respond to any tasking,” said Maj Gen Brian Cavanaugh, commanding general of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

The fifth-generation F-35B stealth fighter designed to operate from short expeditionary airfields and amphibious assault ships, as well as aircraft carriers, and is intended to incorporate the mission capabilities of the current USMC platforms - the AV-8B and F/A-18 - within a single airframe.