Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning IIs assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) ‘Black Knights’ have returned to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California, after completing a historic deployment with the US Navy’s Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).
VMFA-314 returned to MCAS Miramar on August 15 after becoming the first US Marine Corps (USMC) squadron to deploy the F-35C – the carrier variant of the Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter family – aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier, demonstrating the high-level of interoperability between the two US military branches. While underway for more than 200 days, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group sailed more than 65,000nm (120,380km) as it conducted deterrence and presence operations.
During this deployment, the ‘Black Knights’ flew nearly 1,200 sorties, logging more than 2,200 flight hours. As part of CVW-9, the unit participated in dual carrier operations with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea and took part in Valiant Shield 2022 – a biennial US-only joint Field Training Exercise (FTX), which concluded on June 17.
It also participated in Exercise Noble Fusion in the Philippine Sea from February 3-7 and Exercise Jungle Warfare in the vicinity of Okinawa, Japan, from February 13-18. As it returned home, VMFA-314 participated in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) – the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise – held from Honolulu, Hawaii, from June 29 to August 4.
Commenting on the recent deployment, Brig Gen Robert B Brodie – assistant wing commander of the USMC’s 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) – said: “The ‘Black Knight’s’ successful deployment of F-35C Lightning II aircraft aboard USS Abraham Lincoln further reinforces [the 3rd MAW’s] commitment to naval integration. This historic deployment is a testament to our readiness and lethality as we project warfighting capabilities whenever and wherever our nation calls.”
Based at MCAS Miramar and subordinated to the 3rd MAW, VMFA-314 was the first USMC squadron to receive the F-35C after it retired its legacy Hornet fighters from operational service in June 2019. Once the unit completes its transition to the F-35C and achieves Full Operational Capability (FOC), it will be able to integrate and deploy with US Navy CVWs aboard both the existing Nimitz-class and new Gerald R Ford-class aircraft carriers.