U.S. Navy Squadron Finally Takes To The Air In An F-35

(INTERCEPTS (DEFENSE NEWS) 14 AUG 13) … Christopher P. Cavas

A naval aviator from Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA-101), the U.S. Navy’s first squadron to operate the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), took to the air Aug. 14 in the cockpit of one of the aircraft, marking a transition from planning and training to actual flight operations.

Lt. Cmdr. Chris Tabert – call sign Car Bomb – lifted off from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in Aircraft 102 to fly the first squadron sortie in their new mount.

The flight, according to the Navy, followed a decision granting the FRS interim “safe for flight” status.

“VFA-101 will now begin to schedule and perform sorties under their own charter from their facilities at Eglin AFB,” Capt. Mark Black, commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, said in a Navy press release. “This will permit the re-established Grim Reapers to begin training for the original flight instructor cadre that will teach future F-35C pilots in the intricacies of mastering the Navy’s first 5th generation fighter.

“Designating VFA-101 as Interim Safe for Flight signifies that the Navy F-35C has begun its service in Naval Aviation for real,” Black added.

VFA-101 now has begun to serve as the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, training both pilots and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the carrier-based version of the JSF.

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