USMC one step closer to deploying the F-35C aboard carriers

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 The ‘Black Knights’ of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) are one step closer to becoming the first USMC unit to deploy the F-35C on an aircraft carrier. 

This comes after the unit recently returned from its final integrated training cycle with Carrier Strike Group three (CSG-3) aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

The time spent at sea with CSG-3 was used to test and evaluate the mission readiness of a US Navy battle group and its ability to perform as an integrated unit. It also ensured that VMFA-314 are prepared and capable of operating alongside other elements aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. 

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An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to VMFA-314, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). DVIDS/ USMC photo by 1stLt Charles Allen

Lt Col Brendan M Walsh, commanding officer of VMFA-314 said: “Completing this exercise is a critical phase in the training cycle and comes as the next big step for our squadron as we continue to integrate the F-35C into the carrier air wing.”

VMFA-314 joined units of Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW-9) aboard CVN-72 and tested the unit’s flexibility to perform in a variety of mission sets with the other elements and assets of CVW-9. This including flying with platforms such as the E/A-18G Growler, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, E-2D Hawkeye, MH-60R/S Sea Hawk and the CMV-22B Osprey.

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Marines assigned to VMFA-314 conduct a post-flight inspection of the F-35C Lightning II on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. DVIDS/ USMC photo by 1stLt Charles Allen

Walsh added: “The ability to bring the F-35C to Carrier Air Wing Nine allows us to fill a significant role as an instrumental force multiplier. By leveraging our aircraft’s stealth and sensor capabilities we are able to provide the other platforms we work alongside with critical intelligence and battlespace awareness thought previously unobtainable by any of the Marine Corps legacy platforms.”

The ‘Black Knights’ are leading the USMC into 5th generation naval aviation. The MCAS Miramar, California-based unit were the first USMC squadron to gain the F-35C in January 2020 after retiring its legacy F/A-18A/C aircraft.

“Our squadron is proud to have pioneered the F-35C programme through the stand-up and transition to the DoD’s newest fighter aircraft, completing this phase of training now allows our squadron to shift our focus to the next task at hand, the Marine Corps first deployment aboard an aircraft carrier with the F-35C Lightning II early next year.” said Maj Zachary P Hartnett, executive officer of VMFA-314.