Marine F-35B Lightning II fighters strike with externally-mounted ordnance at sea for the first time
F-35B Lightning II aircraft with the fixed-wing detachment of Medium Marine Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted milestone flight operations with externally-loaded inert and live ordnance in expeditionary strike training from the USS Wasp (LHD 1) in the Philippine and East China Seas, Jan. 26 through Feb. 6.
During the missions, the fifth-generation fighters were loaded with CATM-9X air-to-air missiles and dropped inert and high-explosive munitions with precision Guided Bomb Units, including 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II and 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition ordnance, according to LtCol. Michael Rountree, the F-35B detachment officer-in-charge with VMM-262 (REIN).
"We achieved mission success by using the full capabilities of the F-35B at sea. We flew sorties in both a clean configuration and a configuration with external pylons and weapons. We conducted these missions by launching from the USS Wasp, engaging role-player adversary aircraft, striking simulated targets with internally and externally mounted precision guided munitions, returning to the Wasp, and recovering via a vertical landing - a niche capability of the F-35B” said Rountree. “This was the first time that this level of training has been performed by an operationally-deployed F-35B detachment with the 31st MEU."
This operational milestone marks the first time that F-35B aircraft performed strikes with ordnance fully-loaded in the Indo-Pacific region, demonstrating an increase in lethality and integrated amphibious capability, according to Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.
“The combination of stealth tactics and fully-loaded strike aircraft increases the lethality of the F-35B, enabling greater contribution and combat effectiveness by the Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit Team,” said Brodie, a career F/A-18 Hornet pilot. “The formidable and versatile capability of the F-35B provides a premier platform to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s ability to own the fight in the dynamic and evolving Indo-Pacific environment.”
The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps' only continuously forward-deployed MEU partnering with Wasp ARG, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific Region.