The U.S. Marines' first two production F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) arrived at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Fla., plane-maker Lockheed Martin announced Jan. 12.
BF-6, THE FIRST F-35B production jet delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps, arrives at its new assignment at Eglin AFB, Fla. (Angel DelCueto / Lockheed Martin)
The two short take-off vertical landing fighters were flown in separately by Marine aviators Maj. Joseph Bachmann and Lt. Col. Matt Taylor. The pilots flew aircraft BF-6 and BF-8 respectively.
Under an unorthodox arrangement, while the jets belong to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's VMFAT-501 squadron, the unit resides with the U.S. Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing alongside the Navy's VFA-101 and the Air Force's 58th Fighter Squadron.
The Marines could start training new students to fly the F-35B in August, a senior Defense Department official had said earlier. However, currently the Pentagon has not yet formally set a date for training to start at the Florida base.
The DoD has opted to use an approach based on reducing risks prior to starting training operations at Eglin, the official said. As such the Pentagon has not set a specific date to issue a military flight release. Instead, the start of training will be "event driven."
"[The U.S. Air Force and Department of the Navy] are waiting for aircraft flight clearance for test pilot maturation flights," the senior DoD official said. Further, "both services are still trying to determine how many maturation hours are needed by test pilots before instructor pilots and then students can be trained."
But if everything goes as currently planned, the Marine Corps students will probably start flying their version of the Lightning II around August 2012.