F-35C ERA BEGINS AT NAVAL AIR STATION LEMOORE

A new chapter in Navy history began on January 25 when four F-35Cs arrived at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, joining the VFA-125 Rough Raiders and reestablishing them as a training squadron. 

Four F-35Cs flyby at NAS Lemoore

The jets’ arrivals mark the first time the new strike-fighter variant has been deployed to a West-coast based squadron, the recently reactivated “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125.

“It was my first squadron as a student at NAS Lemoore in 1999, and to reestablish it as the commanding officer makes me tremendously proud of the Sailors and the F-35 program,” said Cmdr. John Turner, commanding officer of VFA-125.

As a multi-role joint strike fighter, the capabilities the F-35C provide go beyond the scope that was previously offered by the Navy’s legacy F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet platforms.

“The fifth-generation capability of the F-35 stands apart from every other airplane in the world,” said Jeff Babione, executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program for Lockheed Martin. “The F-35 is able to penetrate previously inaccessible anti-access airspace, which gives pilots increased lethality, precision, and survivability.”

NAS Lemoore, the Navy’s designated West-coast strike fighter hub and master jet base, is expected to add more personnel and F-35C squadrons over the coming years. An additional increase in community growth and activity is expected to boost, both, local demographics and the economy.

“We enjoy basically unencroached airspace in Lemoore to practice here as we do at sea,” said Capt. David James, commanding officer of NAS Lemoore. “I know that myself, the people on the installation, and the community are very excited to have Lemoore chosen as the site for the West coast F-35 placement.”

Currently, naval aviation has been engaged in sustained combat operations for more than 15 years. Future operations require the enhanced flexibility and power projection that the F-35C and its aviators bring to carrier air wings and joint task forces.

“The F-35 is the single, largest acquisition program that the Navy has had,” said Turner. “For VFA-125 and Lemoore itself, it establishes our legacy in naval aviation at the West coast’s master jet base. There is no other place that fifth-generation fighters should be.”

Nearly 400 sailors, families and local civic leaders witnessed the arrival and the accompanying ceremony marking the occasion. NAS Lemoore is the first west coast naval installation to have F-35Cs permanently assigned and is the Navy’s only west coast Master Jet Base. By the end of 2017, the base will have 10 F-35Cs, building to more than 100 jets in the early 2020s.

Four F-35Cs performed a flyby as they arrive at NAS Lemoore, marking their historic arrival to join VFA-125.

Source and Pics: Lockeed Martin