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    Light at the End of the Tunnel? Marine Corps Begins Final Checks of F-35B

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    The US Marine Corps began inspecting its first squadron of F-35B fighter jets with the goal of declaring the aircraft, as well as its pilots and crew, ready for combat before the end of July.

    Testing for the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-121 (VMFA-121), the Green Knights, began Tuesday at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.

    The corps says it remains on track to declare Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in July, but Lieutenant General Jon Davis, head of Marine aviation, said an August decision would also be acceptable.

    "This will be an outcome-based measurement of readiness, assessing whether VMFA-121 as a whole is ready to perform the mission it is assigned," Davis said. "If the operational readiness inspection is completed in July and we are confident that the aircraft are ready for world-wide deployment, then we'll declare IOC in July."

    "If that doesn't happen until August, then it will be August. Bottom line is that we won't rush this; we are doing this the right way," he added.

    When the inspections conclude this week, Davis will make his recommendation to outgoing Commandant General Joseph Dunford, who will make the final decision.

    Declaring IOC would mean the squadron is fit to serve aboard an amphibious carrier in a contingency operation.

    "Following the Marine Corps' F-35B IOC declaration, the aircraft will be ready for future deployments aboard the US Navy's fleet of amphibious carriers," Marine spokesman Major Paul Greenberg said.

    The first deployment is scheduled to take place in 2017, when VMFA-121 will deploy to Iwakuni, Japan.

    Last week, Australia scrapped plans to acquire F-35Bs for its Navy's two transport assault ships. To accommodate the jets, the ships would have required extensive modifications, which were deemed to be too costly.

    Tags:
    F-35 fighter jet, F-35, F-35 II Joint Strike Fighter Program, Australian Navy, US Marine Corps, Australia, Arizona, United States
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