Written by Dabney B. on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
It’s been a long and rocky road for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. Delays, technical complications, and budget issues have plagued the program for years. The JSF has been under the critical eye of the media ever since the program (or more specifically, the price tag) was announced, but all of the hard work put in from Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense is about to pay off.
The Marine Corps has just successfully flown its fifth generation fighter jet, the F-35B. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) hosted the momentous event at Eglin Air Force Base. These top-notch pilots will be the first military men to undergo training with the F-35B at the F-35 Academic Training Center on base and through practical training tests in the air.
General Joseph Dunford, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, is optimistic about the heavy burden of responsibility placed on these pilots’ shoulders, saying “501 is on the forefront of the most significant transition periods Marine aviation has ever known. Certainly one of the most important in a long time. Maybe since the introduction of the helicopter.”
What makes the F-35B so central to Marine Corps power? Of the three F-35 variants, the F-35B is designed specifically for aircraft carrier use. It utilizes thrust vector technology to achieve short take-off and vertical-landings (STOVL). This capability makes the F-35B the most expensive option, but for the Marine Corp these jets will be an invaluable asset. The advanced jet fighter also features radar-evading stealth technology, supesonic cruise capabilities, and impressive maneuverability.
The timing of this historic flight is actually rather coincidental. Almost 100 years ago on May 22, 1912, 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham reported for flight training, marking the birthday Marine Corps Aviation. Technology has advanced leaps and bounds since Cunningham’s day, but the basic objective has always remained the same: to protect US interests over sea and sky.
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