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The F-35A is on track to be declared Initially Operationally Capable (IOC) between August and December this year. In IOC configuration, the aircraft will be able to penetrate areas with developed air defenses, provide close air support to ground troops and be readily deployable to conflict theaters.
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.
F-35 PEO: “All weapons tests needed for 2B software, the software the U.S. Marine Corps will use to declare IOC, is complete and will be ready to go for their combat capability certification.”