Photo Information

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli, departs Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., April 7, 2022. Tripoli completed flight deck operations with 20 F-35B Lightning II jets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons 211 and 225, Marine Aircraft Group 13, and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, as well as Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, as part of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Lightning carrier concept demonstration. The Lightning carrier concept demonstration shows Tripoli and other amphibious assault ships are capable of operating as dedicated fixed-wing strike platforms when needed, capable of bringing fifth generation Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing aircraft wherever they are required.

Photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 demonstrate Lightning carrier concept

11 Apr 2022 | Maj. Mason Englehart 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

The Navy and Marine Corps demonstrated a key capability when they operated 20 F-35B Lightning II jets from America-class amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli March 30 through April 8, fully exercising the Marine Corps’ “lightning carrier” concept for the first time in naval history on an amphibious assault ship.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger spoke to the potential of the “lighting carrier” concept based on amphibious assault ships in his planning guidance. "Lightning" is derived from the predominance of F-35B Lightning II aircraft aboard. The demonstration featured 16 jets from Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, with an additional four from Marine

Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, all operating from USS Tripoli at a high tempo. The Navy and Marine Corps team has incrementally developed the Lightning carrier concept and continues to refine its tactics, techniques, and procedures to support integrated naval operations.

“When this opportunity came up to put this many of our fifth generation aircraft on board Tripoli in conjunction with operational testing, we were thrilled." U.S. Marine Corps Col. Chad Vaughn, MAG-13 commanding officer

“It has been an incredible opportunity to train to fight as a MAG from the sea, to train our pilots, and to work alongside our Navy teammates," said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Chad Vaughn, commanding officer of MAG-13.

The demonstration proved that an assault carrier can be a lethal addition and provides combatant commanders with more options when employed in creative ways. An earlier concept utilized amphibious assault ships to demonstrate the “Harrier carrier” concept for AV-8B Harriers.

This concept will not change the standard make-up of an Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit. However, the exercise demonstrated the potential to utilize amphibious assault ships to provide the naval and joint force with lethal access, collection, and strike capabilities from fifth generation Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing aircraft in future operations.

“This demonstration proved the versatility of the America-class assault carrier, with its ability to embark either two squadrons of F-35Bs and a MAG command element, or a battalion-sized landing force and the associated assault support [12 MV-22B Ospreys, four CH-53E Super Stallions, and six F-35B Lightning II],” said U.S. Navy Capt. Joel Lang, Tripoli’s Commanding Officer. “For the fleet commander, both options are formidable and sustainable.”

Flight Deck Photo by Seaman Maci Sternod
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft attached to Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 takes off aboard amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli, Mar. 31. VMX-1 is embarked aboard Tripoli as part of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Lightning carrier concept demonstration. The Lightning carrier concept demonstration shows Tripoli and other amphibious assault ships are capable of operating as dedicated fixed-wing carrier platforms, capable of bringing fifth generation Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing aircraft wherever they are required.

Tripoli, an amphibious assault ship, is the second America-class landing helicopter assault (LHA) ship. Optimized to support rotary- and fixed-wing operations, Tripoli carries two times as much aviation fuel, 30 percent more aviation ordnance, and—with an expanded hangar bay—more space to perform aircraft maintenance than its Wasp-class predecessors.

"The fifth-generation capability of the F-35B brings a significant advancement in capability to the combatant commanders, not only as a lethal strike aircraft but with the vast array of sensors that come with the F-35B's avionics suite,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Goodno, commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225. “Having two full F-35B squadrons on a ship like USS Tripoli capitalizes on this next generation capability, providing the commander with a multitude of options.”

As one of the Marine Corps’ newest F-35 squadrons, the demonstration provided an opportunity for VMFA-225 to operate at sea for the first time as a squadron.

“The pilots and Marines of my squadron were really eager to gain experience operating at sea, test out this new capability, and work alongside an experienced squadron like VMFA-211 and the USS TRIPOLI crew,” added Goodno. “I am exceptionally proud of how well the Marines of VMFA-225 performed in our first at-sea period. It was an exciting concept and one that we all believe should gain further consideration as an option for our forces moving forward."

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action. As an integral part of U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet operates naval forces in the Indo-Pacific in addition to providing realistic and relevant training necessary to flawlessly execute our Navy's timeless roles of sea control and power projection. Third Fleet works in close coordination with other numbered fleets to provide commanders with capable, ready forces to deploy forward and win in day-to-day competition, in crisis, and in conflict.