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Marine Corps forms new fighter jet squadron

Published November 19, 2012 6:03 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

San Diego • The Marine Corps is forming the first squadron of pilots to fly the next-generation strike fighter jet, months after lawmakers raised concern that there was a rush to end the testing of an aircraft hit with technical problems.

So far, two veteran pilots of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing have been trained to fly the F-35B. They are becoming the first members of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 that will debut Tuesday at a ceremony at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

The first F-35B arrived Friday, and 15 more are slated to arrive during the next year. The Defense Department has pumped half a billion dollars into upgrading the facilities, hangars and runways at the base to make way for the next-generation fighter jet, officials said.

The pilots of the new squadron are expected to fly the aircraft by year's end.

The F-35B would replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier. Tuesday's inauguration comes only months after leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee suggested that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rushed a decision to develop the Marine Corps version of the fighter jet.

The Associated Press