Looks like it’s on its way. The F35 plus club is gaining ground.
The U.S.has completed an operational readiness inspection (ORI) of its first squadron, the last major hurdle before the service can assess whether VMFA-121 in Yuma, Arizona, is suitable to declare initial operational capability (IOC).
The operational readiness inspection took place July 13-20, according to Maj. Paul Greenberg, a Marine spokesman.
The ORI was ordered by Marine Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis to ensure the unit is ready for operations before he makes the recommendation to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford.
The Marines will be the first to declare operations for the F-35 out of 13 customers lined up to buy the single-engine, stealthyfighter. The Air Force is the next slated customer, with IOC planned by the end of next year.
The ORI team has until July 22 to compile its report for Davis. A decision on IOC is expected by the end of July, Greenberg says.
The Marines conducted a graduation exercise for the F-35B on May 18-29, when six of the aircraft deployed on the USS Wasp amphibious ship for its first series of operational testing trials. Davis said the trials proved the aircraft could operate on the ship as expected in preparation for IOC.
The first F-35B deployment is slated for Marine Corps Air Station Iwikuni, Japan, in 2017.