F-35Cs arrive at Miramar as USMC prepares first carrier squadron

The Marine Corps’ first squadron of F-35C Joint Strike Fighters will reach an initial operating capability next month ahead of future carrier deployments, officials said Friday.

The second F-35C Lightning II belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 arrived Friday at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Calif., ten days after the first jet arrived in San Diego.

Friday during an F-35 “open house,” where 3rd MAW and F-35-manufacturer Lockheed Martin officials introduced the new jet to local community leaders. The “Black Knights” of VMFA-314 brought their first two F-35C jets from Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif., where aircrews and maintainers have been working alongside Navy personnel since last summer for transitioning to the new jet.

VMFA-314, a former F/A-18 Hornet jet squadron, is set to deploy most readily, real soon, aboard USN aircraft carriers.

The first carrier-based F-35 unit to deploy will be the Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 147, the “Argonauts.” Navy officials have said 147 will deploy aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in 2021. VMFA-314’s carrier deployment is slated to occur in fiscal 2022, according to the Marine Corps’ 2019 Aviation Plan.

The Lightning II replaces the older jets, including the single-seat F/A-18C Hornets that VMFA-314 flew for the final time last summer.

Miramar is the planned home for six of 3rd MAW’s scheduled 10 F-35 squadrons – two F-35C and four F-38B squadrons, with the other four based at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., according to the Marine Corps’ 2019 Aviation Plan.

Basing the F-35Cs at Miramar puts the jet close to the Navy’s carrier homeport, where Vinson will join USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). Being at Miramar also puts the F-35Cs in the middle of the Navy’s vast complex of air, sea and ground ranges across the Southwest and offshore.

The three carriers homeporting in San Diego “will provide plenty of deck space” and support training for the F-35Cs, Peters said.