Four F-35C Lightning IIs from the USMC’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) ‘Black Knights’ at MCAS Miramar, California, recently carried out their first trans-Pacific deployment to Australia for integrated training with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The four fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters departed MCAS Miramar on June 17 and, after making four stopovers, arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales, Australia, on June 22. The F-35Cs actually arrived in Australia on June 21, when the jets landed at RAAF Base Townsville in Queensland.
During the 7,800-mile (12,552km) flight, the ‘Black Knights’ were supported by a KC-130J Hercules tanker-transport from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352) ‘Raiders’, which ferried relevant cargo, equipment and personnel for the deployment. Aerial refuelling support was provided by KC-135R Stratotankers from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) 171st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) and Washington ANG’s 141st ARW.
This deployment marked the first time that USMC fighters had operated from RAAF Base Williamtown. VMFA-314 had previously trained with F-35As from the RAAF’s No 3 Squadron in Hawaii during Exercise Pacific Edge 23 in December 2022. This four-strong VMFA-314 F-35C detachment was scheduled to conduct unit-level and bilateral integrated training at the Australian base through mid-July before returning to MCAS Miramar.