It was around noon on July 30, 2013, and several F/A-18s from Marine squadrons VMFA 314 “The Black Knights” and VMFA (AW) 225 “The Vikings” were taking off from the runways at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, just northeast of San Diego and heading out over the Pacific Ocean, when word came from the base’s control tower, “She’s 65 miles out.”
Within a few minutes, word had spread up and down the flight line. Marines started coming out from hangers and different work areas to begin lining up along the ramp to see what was going on. Suddenly, she was there. Overhead, a Lockheed Martin
F-35B Lightning II from VMFA-121 “The Green Knights” came flying in from the east. She was about to make history as the first F-35B to land at MCAS Miramar.
The F-35B, piloted by the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Scott, flew over the airfield and made a turn, water vapor seemly swallowing up his aircraft. When the Lt. Colonel made his approach, he came in with wheels down to do a “touch and go” landing, but pulled up when he was approximately 30 feet above the ground. He made another pass, then landed. He taxied the plane over to where the media and several high-ranking Marines from the airfield’s Operation Center were staged. Interviews were conducted and the media was able to get a closer view of the plane.
The Marine Corps currently has nine F-35Bs, all stationed at MCAS Yuma with “The Green Knights,” and 10 pilots capable of flying them. Eventually, the F-35B will replace all of the AV-8B Harrier IIs, the F/A-18s Hornet/Super Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler. The Lightning II is capable of hovering and providing the close air/ground support to the Marine infantry.
Like the Harrier, it can fly supersonic with the fighter capabilities of the Hornets. It can be outfitted for the anti-electronics warfare such as the current mission of the Prowler. By 2016, the F-35B should be calling MCAS Miramar, its home.