Marine F-35B IOC Possibly Imminent

The Marine Corps is reviewing the results of an operational readiness inspection of the first F-35B unit and will likely decide in the next few days whether to declare the jet “operational.” According to a statement from USMC spokesman Maj. Paul Greenberg, the ORI was conducted from July 13-17, and evaluated VMFA-21’s readiness to employ the F-35B, in the 2B configuration, for combat. The evaluation comprised “academics, for both pilots and maintainers, an inspection of the maintenance department, simulator flights, and operational flights” at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., “in each of the five required mission areas.” The team presented its findings to Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, who has briefed USMC Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, who will declare whether the F-35B has achieved initial operational capability. “We expect a decision before the end of July,” Greenberg said. It will be announced in a press release and also on social media, he said. The IOC decision will likely be one of the last decisions Dunford makes for the Marine Corps alone: he has been nominated by President Obama to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and if confirmed, would take up that job Oct. 1.