The US Marine Corps’ (USMC) Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) has declared its initial operational capability (IOC) for the F-35C Lightning II fighter aircraft.

The latest declaration marks a major achievement for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).

This will allow the first USMC F-35C squadron, VMFA-314, to deploy the fifth-generation fighter aircraft for aircraft carrier combat operations worldwide.

VMFA-314 executive officer Duncan French stated: “Our maintenance department was critical to the success of IOC. In addition to accepting and inspecting the multiple aircraft that arrived throughout the year, the marines maintained a high level of aircraft readiness.

“Those mission capable aircraft allowed the pilots to train in the appropriate missions required of IOC, as well as contributed towards the readiness metrics of IOC.”

The VMFA-314 achieved its ‘safe for flight’ operations certification milestone in March this year, marking the squadron’s transition to the F-35C Lightning II from the F/A-18 Hornet.

The F-35C or carrier variant is one of three versions of the advanced stealth aircraft being built by Lockheed Martin for the US military, and partners countries including UK, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada.

The US Navy is the largest customer of F-35C and the USMC is acquiring both F-35B and F-35C.

3rd MAW commanding general major general Christopher Mahoney said: “The F-35 is an expeditionary platform that extends the reach of our marines and machines and increases our ability to support joint and allied partners at a moment’s notice.

“By effectively employing the F-35, MAGTF commanders have the potential to dominate our adversaries in a joint battlespace, in the air and out at sea.”