Home Americas First US Marine Corps F-35C squadron hits independence milestone

First US Marine Corps F-35C squadron hits independence milestone

US Marine Corps photo of VMFA-314's first F-35C Lightning II arriving at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Jan. 21, 2020.

The Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 received their Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification on March 20, after over five months of training with the aircraft.

The milestone marks the end of the squadron’s oversight by the US Navy’s F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA)125, which was responsible for ensuring that the “Black Knights” received quality training during their temporary relocation to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, from Sept. 2019 to Jan. 2020.

The SFFOC process ensures the squadron is manned with qualified personnel to implement maintenance and safety programs in support of fleet operations. All transitioning squadrons are required to complete this certification prior to independently conducting flight operations.

“The achievement of this certification represents years of hard work and detailed coordination across the entire USMC and Naval Aviation Enterprise,”said Lt. Col. Cedar Hinton, commanding officer of VMFA-314. “The ‘Black Knights’ have met or exceeded every challenge faced during this transition, and I am extremely proud to be a part of this fantastic squadron.”

The certification process encompasses areas such as equipment, personnel and programs. Requirements include the installation and operation of management information systems and their accompanying support networks. There is also a requirement for operational F-35C squadrons to maintain robust maintenance programs and complete various inspections ranging from conventional weapons technical proficiencies to safety. Squadron personnel complete a transition curriculum and maintain specific competencies in accordance with Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures and Standardization guidelines.

Aviation history was made when 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing welcomed its first F-35C Lightning II to MCAS Miramar on Jan. 21, 2020. The 5th Generation aircraft – piloted by Hinton – marked the arrival of the U.S. Marine Corps’ first F-35C to Fleet Marine Force.

The “C” variant of the F-35 is the first 5th generation long-range stealth strike fighter designed to operate from both land bases and aircraft carriers. The Lightning II’s control surfaces and landing gear are better equipped for carrier operation than the “A” and “B” variants of the aircraft flown by the US Air Force and Marine Corps, respectively. The F-35C is also equipped with larger internal fuel storage, which when combined with its ability to refuel in-flight, extends its range and allows for enhanced flight time when compared to other aircraft.