The Yuma F-35 Squadron Welcomes its First F-35 Bravo


11/18/12 by Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake

Dateline Yuma, Arizona

Second Line of Defense visited Yuma Arizona this week and the F-35 factory in Fort Worth focusing on the next phase of the F-35 program, standing up an operational squadron.  We will have much to write on these events in the next few weeks.

As the future home of five F-35 JSF operational squadrons of 16 aircraft each and one operational test and evaluation squadron of eight aircraft totaling 88 aircraft, these squadrons will replace Yuma’s four existing squadrons consisting of 56 AV-8B Harriers.

First Flight of BF-21, USMC Tail VK-01, Yuma F-35, Pilot Billie Flynn, October 24, 2012. Credit; Lockheed Martin 

By early next year, the full complement of 16 F-35 Bs will have arrived.

For the USMC, this is the beginning of the next 100 years of Naval Aviation.

Here they are following the model of the Osprey roll out.

After initial deployments, the aircraft will evolve as operators determine best approaches to getting incremental yet significant combat value out of the aircraft.

And this is why the collocation of the squadron with MAWTS is so crucial.

MAWTS is where the Marines develop tactics and training for the various aviation assets working with overall Marine Corps operations.  With the Marines integrating aviation into overall operations is the core operational reality. At MAWTS, the Marines shape their approach to innovation as they move forward, notably with new systems, or newly configured systems.

The squadron at Yuma will shake down the aircraft and get it operational.

As they do so, the pilots using the plane will work closely with MAWTS in shaping the new tactics and training associated with the aircraft.  Because this aircraft is a bundle of Harrier, Prowler, and F-18 capabilities with its own revolutionary foundation to doing air operations, the impact of using the aircraft will be central to the evolution of tactics and training.

Notably, Prowler pilots have been added to the MAWTS team in preparing for the F-35.  As one MAWTS instructor put it: “Prowler pilots are information warriors and this is a core element of what the F-35 is all about.”

With MAWTS working closely with the squadron, the development of tactics and training WHICH ARE AN INHERENT PART OF DEVELOPMENT for the plane, the squadron and the program, will be a center bull effort.

F-35B arrives with two F-18s. The past escorts the future. Credit Photo: Yuma Sun

And this will be significant as the squadron moves out.

The first plane arrived yesterday on November 16th.

The Marine Corps welcomed its first operational F-35B aircraft, the Marine Corps variant of the F-35 Lightning II also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Friday, Nov. 16. The F-35B, one of three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter, is a tactical fixed-wing aircraft that is to be the replacement for aging jets within the Marine Corps.

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s first F-35 squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, is based at MCAS Yuma and is the first operational F-35 squadron in the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense. Marine F-35B pilot Maj. Aric Liberman delivered the first F-35B, BF-19, to MCAS Yuma at 1:05 p.m. MST.

This aircraft will be used to conduct a full spectrum of aviation operations in support of combat missions and maritime readiness worldwide.

 Credit USMC Air Station Yuma.