A Marine aviation squadron flew F-35 Lightning II fighter jets all the way from California to Australia for the first time in the history of the U.S. military, according to the Marine Corps.
Making four stopovers en route, the four F-35C jets from the Miramar, California-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 traversed the approximately 7,800 miles over the Pacific in preparation for training with the Australian air force, according to a June 23 Marine news release.
It marked the first time U.S. F-35 aircraft have made this journey, although Australian F-35As have previously flown from the United States to Australia in the delivery process, according to Marine spokeswoman Maj. Natalie Batcheler.
The F-35Cs’ trip, which began June 17 and concluded June 22, is “a testament to their capability,” Batcheler said.
In January 2020, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 became the first Marine aviation unit to transition to the F-35C, from the aging F/A-18 Hornet. (The same aircraft wing’s Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311 became the second in April.)
Two years after the transition to the F-35C, the “Black Knights” — as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314′s members are called — became the first Marines to deploy the variant on an aircraft carrier, the Abraham Lincoln.
The more prevalent F-35 variant in the Marine Corps is the F-35B, which can conduct short takeoffs and vertical landings, making it nimble enough to operate from the smaller amphibious ships that often transport Marines.
The F-35C is meant to be flown from aircraft carriers or land bases, according to the Marine Corps’ 2022 aviation plan. Its greater internal fuel capacity allows it to cover longer distances than the F-35B.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.