The transition of VMFA-542 Squadron to the F-35B Lightning II began in December 2022, receiving its first example of this aircraft on May 31, 2023.

The first detachment of the US Marine Corps has achieved full operationalization with the advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 542, part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), has marked a milestone by becoming the pioneer of the F-35 Lightning II squadrons in the East Coast of the United States, integrated into the structure of the Fleet Marine Corps Force.

VMFA-542 leads the way with the F-35B on the East Coast

The transition process of VMFA-542 from previous tactical aircraft platforms to the F-35B Lightning II, equipped with short/vertical takeoff and landing (S/VTOL) capabilities of the Joint Strike Fighter program, was successfully completed, reaching operational capability. Full.

This means the squadron is fully prepared to execute comprehensive missions and deploy globally with this cutting-edge technology, supporting both scheduled and contingency operations.

As the first operational fifth-generation combat unit of the 2nd MAW, VMFA-542 is equipped to accomplish its Mission Essential Tasks (MET) in support of the Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF).

Its capabilities encompass close air support, targeted strikes, strike coordination and reconnaissance, offensive anti-air warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses, electronic warfare, electronic support, and active air defense.

Lt. Col. Brian Hansell, commander of VMFA-542, highlighted the significance of this achievement: “Achieving full operational capability is the fruit of the tireless effort and professionalism of the Marines of VMFA-542.”

He also highlighted that this achievement represents the inclusion in the Marine Expeditionary Force of an aeronautical squadron ready for combat, with an unprecedented lethality and survivability capacity.

“We are prepared and able to execute global missions in support of the MAGTF while continuing to prepare to meet future challenges.”

VMFA-542: Successful transition and deployment in Nordic exercises

USMC F-35 Lighting II Squadron has full operational capability

The transition of VMFA-542 Squadron to the F-35B Lightning II began in December 2022, and the squadron received its first example on May 31, 2023. The unit achieved initial operational capability on February 5 and, after the incorporation of its tenth aircraft on March 25, reached full operational capacity on April 3. This rapid advancement underscores the squadron’s commitment to innovation and operational effectiveness.

Recently, the squadron featured in Exercise Nordic Response 24 held in Norway, alongside NATO allies and partners. This deployment tested its competence in extreme arctic and mountainous conditions, reaffirming its versatility in different theaters of operations. A significant milestone was participation in a distributed aviation operations exercise at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, on March 13.

This operation marked several firsts: the landing of a US F-35 Lightning II in Sweden, the first operation of its kind at Kallax Air Base, and one of the first exercises after Sweden joined NATO. This event demonstrates the strong U.S. commitment to NATO and its ability to operate under challenging conditions, strengthening interoperability among allies.

The F-35B: Innovation and capability at the technological forefront

USMC F-35 Lighting II Squadron has full operational capability

The F-35B stands out as the most sophisticated model among the three F-35 variants, thanks to its S/VTOL capability. This feature allows it to operate both from amphibious assault ships and from improvised landing strips less than 2,000 feet in length.

Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer, notes that the STOVL functionality is due to the innovative shaft-driven lift fan propulsion system. This system effectively solves the challenges associated with direct lifting methods, including those related to temperature, speed and power.

Although the F-35B’s design limits its internal cargo capacity compared to the F-35A and F-35C variants, this aircraft maintains significant capability for “stealth” mode operations. It can carry four Aim-120 AMRAAM missiles for air-to-air missions or a combination of four AIM-120/GBU-31 JDAM smart bombs for air-to-ground attacks.

In its “beast mode,” the F-35B expands its arsenal up to fourteen AIM-120 missiles for ground operations, two AIM-9x for air-to-air combat, or a mix of both, along with six GBU-31 for unmatched operational versatility.