Given that the USAF is having to relearn mobile basing and are flying the same aircraft as the USMC (although the the USAF for now is not following the recommendation of an earlier COS of the USAF that they acquire F-35Bs), it is not surprising to find USAF pilots onboard the Lightning Carrier, in this case an amphibious ship.
During a 2016 interview at RAF Lakenheath with then Col. Novotny, now BG Novotny, he highlighted that having the B force at RAF Marham and the coming USAF A force at RAF Lakenheath was a natural opportunity for USAF pilots and maintainers to not just get familiar with the Bs but engage in an enterprise approach.
He highlighted the advantages of joint learning by pilots and maintainers associated with the correlated standup at RAF Marham and at RAF Lakenheath.
“We’re talking about exchange opportunities across the logistics enterprise, and among the pilots as well. If you can fly the A you can fly the B; and vice versa; it is an adjustment, not a whole new training process.
“We are looking to have RAF pilots flying USAF jets and vice versa.
“Doing Red Flags requires bring forces to Nellis and expending monies to come to the exercise, clearly an important task notably in learning to fly together in high intensity warfare exercises.
“But what can be shape from the RAF Marham and Lakenheath bases is frequency of operations with core allies flying the same aircraft.
“The same aircraft point can be missed because the UK did not fly F-16s, the Norwegian, the Danes and the Dutch do. And the USAF does not fly Typhoons and Tornados; the UK does. Now they will ALL fly the same aircraft.
And not to put too fine a point on it, so are the Marines and the USAF.
Now to the USAF onboard the USS America.
According to a story by Lance Cpl Juan Anaya, published on November 1, 2019:
Hundreds of Marines and sailors embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America. Among the sea of naval warriors stood two service members who see the sky as home.
U.S. Air Force Captains Spencer G. Weide and Justin J. Newman, both pilots assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., made history as the first operational Air Force pilots to fly the F-35B Lightning II aboard an amphibious assault ship as part of an integrated training exercise aboard the USS America in the Eastern Pacific on Sept. 27, 2019.
“This is a unique opportunity for the Air Force to integrate with Marines and sailors overseas,” said Weide, with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
The two-week exercise allowed the pilots to refine their skills and apply their training to an integrated naval environment.
“Integrated training like this is important because we operate off of a ship, and we get to learn the naval and Marine warfare functions.” said Newman, with VMFA-122.
“This will allow us to return the knowledge back to the Air Force for better future integration.”
Launching aircraft from ships allows the Navy and Marine Corps to project air power across the globe. Amphibious assault ships, such as the America, provide flexibility to the joint force by supporting a spectrum of air operations from fifth generation jets to heavy lift helicopters.
That’s all part of the superior training the pilots received, Weide added.
Integrating the Marine Aircraft Wing’s combat power and capabilities with the capabilities and skills of the Navy and Air Force leads to an armed force team that is better trained, equipped and ready to respond to crises across the globe.
The whole purpose of this training was integration,” Weide said.
“With the Marines, Navy and Air Force, we are able to build that integrated team.”
The featured photo shows U.S. Air Force Capt. Spencer G. Weide, left, and Capt. Justin J. Newman, F-35B Lightning IIs pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), posing with an F-35 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during routine operations in the eastern Pacific, Oct. 6, 2019.
Amphibious assault ships, such as the America, provide flexibility to the joint force by supporting a spectrum of air operations from fifth generation jets to heavy lift helicopters.