May 19, 2015 --
USS Wasp (LHD-1) At Sea-
Six Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft initiated the first phase
of shipboard operational testing (OT-1) when they landed aboard the USS Wasp at
sea on the afternoon of May 18.
OT-1 will evaluate and assess the integration of the F-35B
into Marine Corps aviation while operating across different flight, maintenance
and logistical operations that are seen in the Marine Corps’ operating forces.
The information gathered from OT-1 will lay the groundwork
for F-35B deployments aboard U.S. Navy amphibious ships and help the Corps’
determine its initial operating capability of the aircraft.
“It’s an interim half-step between fully deployed operations
and development tests,” said Maj. Richard Rusnok, the Marine Operational and
Test Evaluation Squadron 22 F-35B
Detachment officer in charge, and one of the primary pilots for the exercise.
OT-1 is the connecting block between the testing team,
engineers and fleet operations, according to Rusnok. The equipment, personnel
and support will all represent what will be used in the fleet field of
operations for this aircraft, he added.
The six aircraft are from Marine Fighter Attack Training
Squadron 501, Marine Aircraft Group 31, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Beaufort,
South Carolina, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group
13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based in Yuma, Arizona.
“The F-35B is scheduled to replace the aircraft that the
Marine Corps is currently using, which would be AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18
Hornet, as well as the EA-6B Prowler,” said Col. Robert Rauenhorst, the
commanding officer of Marine Test and Evaluation Squadron 22. “We’re looking at
the manpower and logistical efficiencies in performing aircraft maintenance and
aircraft sustainability over one type/model/series, versus three separate types
of legacy aircraft.”
“With the six F-35Bs onboard, the Wasp is ready to support
this first phase of operational testing with everything she’s got,” said
U.S. Navy Capt. Kurt Kastner, the
commanding officer of the USS Wasp (LHD-1). “It’s not every day you have the
Lightning II land on your deck, so we have taken great care so that everything
After arriving, the aircraft displayed short take off,
vertical landing capabilities. This was the first of many flight operations
scheduled take place during OT-1.
“The performance of the Marines out here has been exceptional;
they’re eager to learn and excited to transition from their legacy aircraft and
come over to the F-35B,” said Rauenhorst.
Many modifications had to be made to the Wasp in order for
it to accommodate the F-35B, including the installation of the Autonomic
Logistics Information System known as ALIS.
“The Wasp is the only ship in the fleet that has all of the
integrated F-35B modifications,” said Rusnok. “One of the most important things
is they’ve installed ALIS on the ship.”
Rusnok explained that ALIS is the aircraft’s informational
and technological backbone. Maintaining the aircraft is done through this
In addition to the technical aspects, Rusnok also said there
are many new physical attributes to the ship, such as a special coating on the
flight deck and flight deck equipment, and a lithium ion battery storage
capability aboard ship. The U.S.
Navy-Marine Corps team is working closely with Naval Sea Systems Command to
assess specific modifications made to USS WASP to support future deployments.
The Marine Corps’ other objectives during the next two weeks
of testing include demonstrating and assessing day and night flight operations
in varying aircraft configurations, as well as day and night weapons
loading. Additionally, teams will assess
digital interoperability of aircraft and ship systems, F-35B landing signal
officer's launch and recovery software, and all aspects of maintenance,
logistics, and sustainment support of the F-35B while deployed at sea.