The Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 recently conducted its first-ever cross-deck aviation mission with the F-35B aircraft in the Pacific Ocean. The mission was the first of its kind in modern naval history, showing the interoperability of the F-35B and the importance of integration between the forces of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group (UK CSG) and the US Navy Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In the mission, the F-35B was launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth and then landed on the amphibious assault ship USS America. From there, the aircraft loaded ordnance, got a refuel, and conducted a simulated strike on follow-up objectives.
US Senior National Representative to the UK CSG, Col. Simon Doran, stated that the mission, conducted in collaboration with the UK CSG 21, “strengthens our alliances and partnerships through the development of interoperable capabilities, combined operations, theater security cooperation, and capacity-building efforts.”
Col. Duran added that the exercise underscored their continued efforts to “shift away from static, built-up airfields towards distributed maritime operations.”
Marine Corps Major Brian Kimmins said he looks forward to “the opportunity to work with the Marines and Sailors aboard USS America from the cockpit of an F-35B.” Major Kimmins was previously deployed on amphibious assault ships while flying the AV-8B Harrier.
The VMFA-211 is one of two squadrons that operate VMFA-211 aircraft. Also known as the “Wake Island Avengers” and the “Bastion Defenders,” they are currently based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona.
On May 6, 2016, the VMFA-211 conducted its last AV-8B Harrier flight, marking the squadron’s transition to the newer F-35B Lightning II. The unit received its first two new F-35Bs on May 9 of that year.
On June 30, it was officially recognized as the second fleet squadron operator of the F-35B.