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The US Marine Corps’ (USMC) six F-35B Lightning II aircraft have commenced the first phase of shipboard operational testing (OT-1), landing aboard the amphibious assault ship, USS Wasp.

The first phase of OT will see the evaluation and assessment of the integration of the F-35B into Marine Corps aviation, while operating across different flight, maintenance and logistical operations.

Marine Operational and Test Evaluation Squadron 22 F-35B Detachment officer major Richard Rusnok said: "It’s an interim half-step between fully deployed operations, and development tests."

He also added that this phase is the connecting block between the testing team, engineers and fleet operations.

The information collected from OT-1 will provide the groundwork for F-35B deployments aboard the US Navy amphibious ships.

"It’s an interim half-step between fully deployed operations, and development tests."

It will also help the USMC to determine the initial operating capability of the aircraft.

The aircrafts participating in the test are from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, Marine Aircraft Group 31, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Beaufort, South Carolina, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based in Yuma, Arizona, US.

Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 commanding officer colonel Robert Rauenhorst said: "The F-35B is scheduled to replace the aircraft that the Marine Corps is currently using, which would be AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, as well as the EA-6B Prowler."

During the test, the USMC will carry out demonstration and assessment of day and night flight operations in varying aircraft configurations, as well as day and night weapons loading.

In addition, they will also assess digital interoperability of aircraft and ship systems, the F-35B landing signal officer’s launch and recovery software, and all aspects of maintenance, logistics, and sustainment support of the aircraft.

Image: An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter lands aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1). Photo: courtesy of US Marine Corps photo by lance corporal Remington Hall / Released.