MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 conducted the F-35B Lightning II’s
first-ever expeditionary test in support of exercise Steel Knight 16, Dec.
Exercise Steel Knight is a combined arms live-fire exercise that
implements a combination of air and ground assets to complete a wide range of
military operations to prepare 1st Marine Division for deployment as the ground
combat element of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
VMFA-121’s role in the
exercise was to conduct close air support drills and expeditionary missions in
support of the MAGTF.
During the exercise, the F-35 utilized the
expeditionary airfield on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine
Palms, California, and the expeditionary landing pad at Red Beach on Marine
Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
“We’ve done similar landings in
[Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona], but the one at Red Beach was the
smallest vertical landing pad we have used to date,” said Maj. Colin Newbold,
the flight operations officer with VMFA-121.
Exercise Steel Knight
allowed VMFA-121 the opportunity to illustrate the abilities of the F-35 to
operate organically in an austere environment while helping accomplish the
mission of the MAGTF.
“This is the first time that we get to truly test
the capabilities of the aircraft in an expeditionary setting,” said Newbold, the flight operations officer with VMFA-121. “This is going to be a
real learning experience for everyone involved and will prove helpful in the
future when developing tactics.”