An F-35B Lighting II from Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 touched down on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7) on January 11, marking the first time the ship has landed the new fifth generation fighter.
Tripoli has been steadily operating and training the crew in preparation for the underway flight operations with VMFA-122, which culminated in the fixed-wing certification for the ship.
“This is what Tripoli was built for,” said Capt. Joel Lang, Tripoli’s commanding officer. “The crew and supporting organizations have worked incredibly hard to get us to the point where we can launch and recover aircraft, rising to every challenge the Navy has put before them since we commissioned. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished.”
Tripoli is currently underway after entering service in July 2020 and completing final contractor trials in August 2021.
The ship is specifically designed to enhance Marine Corps aviation, allowing the operation of tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys and the F-35B from its flight deck. Compared to conventional amphibious assault ships, the first two America-class ships sacrifice the well deck in favor of an enlarged hangar deck, realignment and expansion of the aviation maintenance facilities, a significant increase in available stowage of parts and equipment and an increased aviation fuel capacity.
Despite its design, bringing the F-35B aircraft to the ship required a lot of coordination between Tripoli and the Marines who operate the fighter.
“It was an honor to support Tripoli in accomplishing such an important event,” said Maj. Randy Brazile, the landing signal officer embarked from VMFA-225. “The Marines and pilots from VMFA-122 and (Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron) VMX-1 are excited to see Tripoli achieve its fixed-wing flight certification.”
The sailors who comprise the flight deck crew have trained their entire careers to run flight operations, and they worked efficiently and safely while accomplishing this milestone.
“Everything flowed perfectly,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Paul Salame. “We did everything we practiced for. I got to launch the first jet ever from Tripoli; it was a good feeling. We’re all very excited to do it again.”
As crewmembers crowded vulture’s row or viewed the flight operations on one of the ship’s monitors, the excitement was palpable throughout the command.
“The crew has sacrificed time away from their families and friends to accomplish our mission,” said Lang. “Days like today prove that the time those families have given us isn’t wasted.”