US Navy squadron finally takes to the air in an F-35

Grim Reaper 102 takes to the air at Eglin AFB, Fla., on Aug. 14. (Lockheed Martin photo by Liz Kaszynski via US Navy)

A naval aviator from Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA-101), the U.S. Navy’s first squadron to operate the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), took to the air Aug. 14 in the cockpit of one of the aircraft, marking a transition from planning and training to actual flight operations.

Lt. Cmdr. Chris Tabert — call sign Car Bomb — lifted off from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in Aircraft 102 to fly the first squadron sortie in their new mount.

The flight, according to the Navy, followed a decision granting the FRS interim “safe for flight” status.

“VFA-101 will now begin to schedule and perform sorties under their own charter from their facilities at Eglin AFB,” Capt. Mark Black, commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, said in a Navy press release. “This will permit the re-established Grim Reapers to begin training for the original flight instructor cadre that will teach future F-35C pilots in the intricacies of mastering the Navy’s first 5th generation fighter.

“Designating VFA-101 as Interim Safe for Flight signifies that the Navy F-35C has begun its service in Naval Aviation for real,” Black added.

VFA-101 now has begun to serve as the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, training both pilots and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the carrier-based version of the JSF. 

Tabert soars into the air after takeoff from Eglin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Strapped in, Tabert prepares for his flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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