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The U.S. Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II aircraft reached initial operational capability today with a squadron of 10 F-35Bs ready for world-wide deployment. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona, is the first squadron in military history to become operational with an F-35 variant, following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), which concluded July 17.
Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) are conducting extensive testing toward the program's main milestone - declaring Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VFMA-121) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma - the first Marine Corps F-35 unit 'operational ready' by the end of July 2015. Although only the USMC unit flying F-35B is due for this clearance, some of the testings are done on the Air Force's F-35A and Navy F-35Cs, since many of elements of the different variants, particularly the software versions - are identical. This procedure was recently highlighted by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) in his annual report.
The US Department of Defense has assigned F-35 Regional Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade (MRO&U) capability for airframes and engines for the European and Asia Pacific Regions. Participating nations were provided with requirements for Regional MRO&U, or "heavy maintenance" needs for both F-35 engines and airframes.
Lockheed Martin has been awarded additional a $4,123 million contract, as a modification to the F-35 program, for the production of 43 F-35s under the eighth Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP Lot VIII) lot of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The Pentagon claimed the cost of the current lot reflects a reduction of 3.6 percent over LRIP VII. More reductions will come into effect in the next batch of production.