Photo Information

A sailor aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) signals to the pilot of an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to land as it arrives for the first phase of operational testing, May 18, 2015. The short take-off, vertical landing capabilities of the F-35B are crucial to the mission of the Marine Corps and necessary for operation aboard a Navy amphibious ship. The aircraft are stationed with 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, Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

USMC OT-1 kicks off with Lightning II aircraft landing aboard USS Wasp

19 May 2015 | Lance Cpl. Remington Hall Headquarters Marine Corps

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 goes smoothly.”

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 program.

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.