Marines training on the ground on the Horn of Africa will see a new set of wings pulling the classic close air support mission: The F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-35Bs are assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “Wake Island Avengers” and part of the air combat element deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 13th MEU and San Diego, Calif.-based Essex Amphibious Ready Group has arrived U.S. 5th Fleet and launched F-35Bs from the deck of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) U.S. Naval Institute reports.
“We will exercise all of the capability of the aircraft without prioritizing a specific one. It will all pertain to supporting the Marine on the ground, We have the opportunity to run through the full gamut of our capabilities while we are here.” ~ Col. Chandler Nelms
For the first time in theater, that support is coming from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211’s F-35B crews.
“We’ve been transiting a long way across the Pacific and haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do close-air support, Everything from the deck crew loading ordnance to air crews knocking off the rest in terms of deploying bombs, shooting the gun and practicing our all-weather close-air-support capability.” ~ Lt. Col. Kyle Shoop, the squadron’s commanding officer
— USNI News (@USNINews) September 11, 2018
“This is about continuous readiness. We put a lot of effort into training on the West Coast before we deployed. We trained to a pretty high level of readiness when we left. Those skills kind of atrophy very quickly if you don’t practice,” Capt. Gerald Olin, Amphibious Squadron 1 commander
Within a week of leaving San Diego Naval Base for the scheduled deployment to the Pacific and Middle East, the Essex ARG/13th MEU stopped in Hawaii for a few days of sustainment training.
A U.S. Marine Corps aircraft carrier full of F-35B stealth jets showed up in the Middle East after Russia threatened U.S. forces in Syria in the latest military buildup between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers.
Until recently, the U.S. had no capital ships and just one or two destroyers in the Mediterranean, but the USS Essex, a small, flat-deck aircraft carrier used to launch U.S. Marine Corps F-35B stealth jets that can take off almost vertically, just arrived off the horn of Africa. Task and Purpose News
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.