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The Marine Corps Deploys Second Squadron of F-35Cs, Bolstering Airpower in California

The Marine Corps to Activate Second F-35C Squadron in California

The Marine Corps has scheduled the activation of its second squadron of F-35C Lightning II fighters during a ceremony set to take place on Friday at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

In a press statement released on Monday, the Marine Corps announced the revival of Marine Attack Squadron 311, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. The squadron had initially planned to retire in October 2020, having operated AV-8 Harriers since 1988.

According to the statement, Squadron 311 will become the second operational Marine Corps squadron equipped with the F-35C variant. It joins Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, which began flying F-35Cs in 2020 and is stationed at Miramar.

Manufacturer Lockheed Martin describes the F-35C, on its website, as “the world’s first and only long-range stealth attack fighter specifically designed and built for Navy carrier operations.” The “C” model features folding landing gear and wingtips tailored for carrier-based operations.

Second Lt. Andrew Baez, spokesperson for the 3rd Marine Air Wing, mentioned in a phone interview on Wednesday that the addition of a second squadron of F-35Cs aligns with the Marine Corps’ aviation plan, which was publicly disclosed last year.

“The plan emphasizes readiness, underscores the significance of operating from sea, and focuses on manpower, logistics support, and modern capabilities,” the Marine Corps stated in a news release in May.

The aviation plan, according to the statement, supports the global modernization effort known as Force Design 2030. This evaluation aims to shift the Corps’ attention from ground combat experiences gained over two decades in Afghanistan to naval and air combat scenarios that might arise in an Indo-Pacific conflict with China.

“The F-35C brings a long-range fighter/strike platform with the most advanced stealth and sensor capabilities to the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Michael Fisher, who will assume command of Squadron 311 on Friday, in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “While the Harrier served the Marine Corps well as a great weapon, it has now been succeeded by a more advanced and capable platform. The F-35 was designed for present and future combat requirements.”

This reactivated squadron carries a rich heritage dating back to World War II when it was established on December 1, 1942, as Marine Fighter Squadron 311. It deployed to the Pacific in early 1943, flying F4U-1 Corsair fighters.

During World War II, its final missions included dive bombing and patrols during the Battle of Okinawa in early 1945.

In 1948, the squadron transitioned to jet aircraft, conducting the Marine Corps’ first jet fighter missions during the Korean War.

Throughout the Vietnam War, the squadron flew A-4 fighters, accumulating nearly a decade of service. In the early 1990s, during Operation Desert Shield, it became the first Marine Corps squadron to deploy AV-8 Harriers to a combat zone. The squadron actively participated in numerous combat sorties over Afghanistan and Iraq.

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