Marine Squadron Completed Sorties in F-16s


Marine aviators of the F-35B Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 completed four sorties this week in F-16 Fighting Falcons, beginning a familiarization process to ensure readiness and efficiency in the transition to the Department of Defense’s fifth generation fighter.

Lt. Col. James Wellons, Warlords commander, said “It’s a tremendous opportunity to fly (these sorties). This is the first time a VMFAT-501 pilot has flown here at our new home.”

Officials elected to bring the F-16s from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., to the 33rd Fighter Wing, because of its similarity to its descendant, the F-35. Its flying characteristics are similar to the F-35, so the training and mindset pilots will have in a single-engine fighter transitions from the F-16 into the F-35.

The Marines, who’d only flown in Marine and Naval fighters, discovered vast similarities to the Air Force F-16 and their Harriers, Hornets and Prowlers.

This familiarization is doubly beneficial to the Marines, not just to understand an aircraft style similar to the F-35, but to also experience Eglin’s runway and flightline operations, maintenance procedures and airspace.

“This is a major milestone for VMFAT-501,” said the commander. “Every time a Marine flies an aircraft here, it’s one step closer to putting F-35s in the air.”

The Marine variant of JSF, the F-35B, contains a STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) engine. The STOVL variant will replace the Marine Corps inventory of F-18 and AV-8s.




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