USMC's First F-35s Arrive at Eglin

First Production Model F-35B Delivered to the Marine Corps

The Joint Strike Fighter schoolhouse at Eglin Air Force Base, Fl., recieved its first two F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variants of the JSF today. The two jets -- the Marines' first two production model F-35s -- are the seventh and eighth JSFs to be sent to Eglin since last summer. No word on how long they'll stay on the ground now that they've arrived. Remember, the Eglin jets have yet to be cleared to begin any sort of training flights so they're being used as maintenance trainers.

Here's Lockheed's announcement on the latest delivery:

The first two Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] production model F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps today. The two jets are now assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 501 residing with the host 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla.

The aircraft, known as BF-6 and BF-8, flew separately arriving at 3:13 p.m. and 4:39 p.m. CST respectively after their approximate 90-minute ferry flights from Fort Worth, Texas. U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Bachmann piloted BF-6 while U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Taylor flew BF-8. Both 5th Generation fighter s will be used for pilot and maintainer training at the new F-35 Integrated Training Center.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era of advanced capabilities for the U.S. Marine Corps,” said Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program executive vice president and general manager. “The F-35B’s versatility, as demonstrated onboard the USS WASP (LHD-1) last fall, will revolutionize our nation’s expeditionary combat power in all threat environments by allowing operations from major bases, damaged airstrips, remote locations and a wide range of air-capable ships. This aircraft will give our warfighters the ability to accomplish their mission, wherever and whenever duty calls.”

F-35 STOVLs met many critical milestones in 2011. In October, F-35Bs conducted their first set of ship trials, known as Developmental Test 1, 20 miles off the coast of Wallops Island, Va. During the 19-day testing period, BF-2 and BF-4 conducted 72 vertical landings and short takeoffs, accomplishing all test milestones during the mission. For the year, F-35Bs accomplished 333 System Development and Demonstration test flights and 268 vertical landings.

BF-6 and BF-8 are the first two F-35 deliveries to the Department of Defense in 2012 and the seventh and eighth F-35 aircraft delivered to Eglin AFB since July 2011. Previously, six U.S. Air Force F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) jets were delivered to the base.

Click through the jump to watch a video of the first F-35B arriving at Eglin.

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