Lockheed Martin delivered another F-35C Lightning 2 on Tuesday to Eglin Air Force Base for the purpose of training U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps pilots.
"It is a really proud and exciting day here today with really the who’s who of aviation history in this room today to bring this new aircraft into the fleet,” said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President.
The F-35 is intended to be an all-purpose strike fighter that will be used by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force as well as a number of America’s allies.
"The long view efforts to bring this aircraft down here to build the hanger and now to get the initial folks on station,” said Lt. Commander Luke Barradell. “Now we are just starting the first wave of pilots with maintenance training is truly remarkable.”
The squadron has one qualified F-35 pilot and there are six more student pilots in training.
They, as well as the aircraft maintenance personnel are anxious to begin training on the Lightning.
"Our job is to train both the air crew and the maintainers, so that as squadrons come through and go back out to the fleet,” said Commander Fredrick Crecelius. “All the sailors and air crew that go out are fully ready to go and become operational.
Eglin now has three F-35C and expects to receive three more by the end of the year.
All will be used exclusively for training navy personnel.
"They will continue to understand how to use the aircraft what tactics they want to use and then in the next few years put it in its operational testing,” said Martin.
Eglin invited a number of retired members of VFA-101.
The navy formed the squadron, known as the Grim Reapers, in 1942.
The squadron has seen action in World War 2 and the Korean War, flying Wildcats, Corsairs, F-4 Phantom Jets, F-14 Tomcats, and now the F-35.