US Marine Corps’ (USMC) Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 242 has successfully achieved full operational capability (FOC) as a F-35B Lightning II squadron.

Based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, the squadron is now ready to support a full set of safety and security missions in the Indo-Pacific region.

With the FOC, around 32 F-35B aircraft have been permanently forward-based as part of the USMC’s Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 12.

With the VMFA-242’s addition, the MAG-12 now has two F-35B squadrons. The first, VMFA-121, was forward-based in January 2017.

MAG-12 is the Indo-Pacific region’s only forward-based unit with two permanently based F-35B squadrons.

According to the USMC, the F-35 Lightning II aircraft will replace the USMC’s existing tactical aviation fleet in the near future. The existing fleet includes F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler and AV-8B Harrier aircraft.

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The transition has taken place as per the schedule of annual USMC’s aviation plan.

Also called Bats, VMFA-242 was re-designated as a F-35B squadron on 16 October 2020, after which the squadron attained initial operational capability (IOC) last year in September.

VMFA-242 commanding officer lieutenant colonel Michael Wyrsch said: “The FOC milestone is the culmination of well over two years of planning and execution, all while being forward deployed and in the face of a global pandemic.

“In my 20 plus years of service, I have never seen a unit come together in a way that our marines and sailors have while overcoming many challenges.”

“I am incredibly proud to say that I was a member of this team and I look forward to seeing where the Bats’ lasting culture of excellence will take them.”