Good news for a troubled aircraft: the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for the first time during operational training, has dropped live weapons from its Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft. The aircraft and pilots involved, belong to Fighter Attack Squadron VMFA-121 ‘Green Knights’.
The operational training was conducted from 22 June until 26 June from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. A total of 14 pilots used six F-35Bs to employ both inert and high-explosive munitions. In total, 18 Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12s, and 12 GBU-32s were employed during the training. The weapons are the same as those dropped by legacy Marine Corps fixed-wing aircraft. The weapons were released over a Restricted Area in southeastern California.
The USMC’s fleet F-35Bs needs to demonstrate the ability to employ ordnance for the squadron to declare Initial Operating Capability (IOC). The squadron will be the very first squadron anywhere to reach IOC on the F-35.
Question marks remain around the 5th generation fighter aircraft however. A recent report this week said the type earlier this year was unable to beat the F-16 it replaces in close range dogfights. The F-35 Joint Program Office responded by saying the F-35 involved was not up to production standard and that the aircraft is designed with beyond visual range (BVR) combat in mind.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (above): An F-35B seen during an earlier weapons drop test. (Image Andy Wolfe © Lockheed Martin)