Black Knights IOC

On 1 December 2020, the US Marine Corps (USMC) declared the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 Black Knights ('VW-xx') initial operational capable with its F-35C Lightning II.

The Initial operational capability (IOC) declaration is a milestone for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) and (deployed) Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commanders as the Lightning IIs of the Black Knights are now able to integrate within the US Navy Carrier Air Wings (CVW) and subsequently able to embark US Navy carriers.

VMFA-314 has now reached the status of understanding strategic and tactical capabilities of the F-35C, how to operate and mintain the 5th generation aircraft and its advanced capabilities in an non-permissive maritime domain. To receive this qualification, squadrons must meet the Headquarters Marine Corps standards, which define the minimum number of trained Marines, mission ready aircraft and trained pilots needed in order for a squadron to become IOC complete.

VMFA-314 is the first F-35C squadron in the USMC. The squadron began transitioning from legacy F/A-18C Hornets to the F-35C on 30 September 2019. The Black Knights are part of 3rd MAW, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11, located at MCAS Miramar (CA). It is not revealed yet when the squadron would start to integrate in a CVW, nor when its first deployment will commence. The US Navy itself will first deploy with Strike Fighter squadron (VFA) 147 Argonauts within CVW-2 on board the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in 2021.

Photo credit: USMC and Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya

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