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The BF-1, the test plane of the F-35 Lightning II, lands at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Nov. 15. This landing marks a step closer to adding the F-35, also called the Joint Strike Fighter, to the Marine Corps’ arsenal. The Marine Corps is set to receive the F-35B STOVL variant of the aircraft, capable of short take-offs and vertical landings.

Photo by Randy Hepp

Joint Strike Fighter lands closer to Corps’ air arsenal

16 Nov 2009 | Capt. Craig Thomas

At approximately 1 p.m., the Marine Corps came one step closer to adding the Joint Strike Fighter F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) variant to its arsenal. The test plane, BF-1, flew from Fort Worth, Texas, to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where it will undergo additional integrated developmental testing as directed by Joint Strike Fighter Program Executive Officer Maj. Gen. David Heinz.

“Getting BF-1 in the hands of the wonderful men and women at Naval Air Station Patuxent River is a big deal for the Marine Corps," said Lt. Gen. George J. Trautman III, deputy commandant for aviation. “I'm anxious to have our engineers, our test pilots, and our operators get their hands on this jet, and then see what we can do to turn test points and sorties at a rapid rate during the coming months.”

While at Patuxent River, the first set of testing for BF-1 is to have it flying shorter take-off runs and slower landings that will eventually culminate in the plane’s first vertical landing. Further testing will include flying with different weight loads and ordnance pay loads, and work-ups to shipboard operations.  In total, five F-35B and three F-35C (the carrier variant) Joint Strike Fighters will be delivered to Patuxent River to enable the flight test operations required to deliver this aircraft to the warfighter.

In April 2010, Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) will officially stand up as part of the Joint Integrated Training Center located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.  The work done at Patuxent River will enable the Marine Corps to start training Marine pilots and maintainers at this time next year.  Additionally, the Marine Corps is scheduled to have its first operational squadron in 2012.

The STOVL F-35B Lightning II will replace three variants of Marine Corps combat aircraft (F/A-18, AV-8B and EA-6B), improves operational capabilities, provides flexible basing options ashore and afloat, and reduces aviation training and maintenance costs across the Corps.

This 5th generation multi-role fighter has significant advantages over the Marine Corps’ current tactical fixed-wing squadrons. The STOVL JSF will carry more ordnance with greater range than the F/A-18 Hornet, operate from austere environments like the AV-8B Harrier, and possess electronic warfare technology and capability like the EA-6B Prowler.

For additional information contact Capt. Craig Thomas, Media Relations Branch, Division of Public Affairs Headquarters Marine Corps, at or (703) 614-4309.

Headquarters Marine Corps