The US Marine Corps' complement of F-35B Lightning II fighters could be considered combat ready in just a few days, Marine Corps Times reports. The STOVL variant of the controversial joint strike fighter is merely awaiting a final review from Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford.
"We've done everything we needed to do to make the decision," the USMC's chief aviator, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis told MC Times.
Just because the Commandant signs off on the plane, though, doesn't mean it's immediately hitting the front lines. According to Lt. Gen. Davis, the final review will make the Corps' first F-35 squadron, VMFA-121, fully operational, but the squadron still needs to round out its flight roster.
"We will transition to normal operational training priorities for a normal gun squadron, training all the remaining pilots up and getting them ready for combat should the squadron be called to go," Maj. Christopher Trent, VMFA-121's pilot training officer, told MC Times.
Additional squadrons will also be brought online, including an AV-8B Harrier squadron in Arizona and an F/A-18 Hornet squadron in South Carolina. The Corps will also ramp up its training of enlisted maintenance personnel.
"I think our biggest task is to maintain the very high quality we saw with VMFA-121," Lt. Gen. Davis said.