The United States Marine Corps officially established Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311 as the second squadron of its kind in the branch, with the reactivation ceremony of its F-35C Lightning II aircraft held on April 14.
On October 15, 2020, the Marine Corps took a first step towards its transition to the F-35 by deactivating the former VMA-311 and subsequently reactivating VMFA-311 with the F-35C Lightning II.
The reactivation supports the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan’s goal of modernizing Marine aviation. The plan prioritizes readiness, sea-based aviation, and modern capabilities.
“We are taking an aggressive approach to build capabilities that will move, sustain, and support the individual Marine while making the force more lethal, effective, and survivable,” said then-Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Mark R. Wise in the 2022 plan.
“The F-35C brings a long-range fighter/attack platform with the most advanced stealth and sensor capabilities in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Michael P. Fisher, the commanding officer of VMFA-311. “The Harrier was a great weapon that served the Marine Corps well and has been replaced with a more advanced and capable platform. The F-35 was designed for the near-term and future fight.”
The Tomcats, a notable squadron of “firsts” for Marine Corps aviation, originally commissioned in 1942 as Marine Attack Squadron 311 as a at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, where it first deployed in support of the World War II island hopping campaign.
The squadron led the way for Marine Corps aviation in many groundbreaking events: it was the first Marine squadron to use fighter aircraft for dive bombing missions, flew the first Marine combat mission with jets in 1950 during the Korean War, was the first Marine squadron to employ the AV-8B Harrier in combat during Operation Desert Shield, the first to fly combat missions in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, and participated in the first combat sortie of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
In 2020, US Marine Corp’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 declared their initial operational capability (IOC) for the F-35C fifth-generation fighter designed to operate from US Navy aircraft carriers.
In February 2022, the first US Navy F-35C crashed into the South China Sea while operating from the USS Carl Vinson. Despite this setback, the Navy remains committed to the capabilities and performance of the F-35C, which was retrieved on March 2nd of the same year.