Marine fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 225 ‘Vikings’ of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, performed its first flight with the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma on September 25.
The first F-35B flight conducted by VMFA-225 was in support of Marine Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 22-1 shortly after the squadron transitioned from the Boeing F/A-18D Hornet. The mission focused on executing defensive counter air when protecting a friendly location.
VMFA-225 received its first F-35B in May this year and has been since tasked to transition from a F/A-18D Hornet squadron to a F-35B squadron. Due to this, the squadron doubled in size regarding personnel numbers from May to September, and each marine was advanced trained to be battle ready on the F-35B. Meanwhile VMFA-225 built its new maintenance department.
Maj Randy Brazile, executive officer of VMFA-225, said: “We were accepting new aircraft, tools and support equipment while building the processes to execute effective maintenance on our jets. Prior to our first flight, we were inspected multiple times and certified safe to execute flight operations by 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.”
According to Brazile the first flight is not the end of the transition for VMFA-225, which will commence work on expanding capacity in both pilot and maintainer qualifications as it heads towards its initial operations capable (IOC) certification.
To receive its IOC the squadron must build its experience as it grows from eight F-35BS to ten. In addition, all VMFA-225 pilots will be required to train towards being capable of executing all core mission tasks of a Marine Fighter Attack Squadron.
As the fifth USMC operational F-35B squadron, VMFA-225 will play a role in developing the tactics, techniques and processes employed by USMC aviators once the transition to the fifth-generation platform is complete by 2030.
By 2022, VMFA-225 is scheduled to gain its IOC and will then be in a unique position as being part of the only MAG solely utilising F-35B and UAV MQ-9 Reapers. Having not embarked on US Navy assets since 1960, the squadron will also be at the forefront of the USMC development of the future Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
Lt Col Alexander Goodno, commanding officer of VMFA-225 said: “We expect that the squadron will be one of the first, if not the first, F-35B squadrons to deploy on a MEU in its entirety as a ten-plane squadron vice the traditional six plane detachment that is currently being used and has stood in place for decades under the previous AV-8B MEU support construct.”