Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), has achieved a significant milestone as the first East Coast F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron in the Fleet Marine Force to reach initial operational capability, as of February 5th.
Initial operational capability indicates that VMFA-542 now possesses sufficient operational F-35B Lightning II aircraft, trained pilots, maintainers, and support equipment to autonomously sustain its mission essential tasks (METs). These METs encompass a range of critical operations, including close-air support, offensive anti-air warfare, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and electronic attacks.
According to Lt. Col. Brian Hansell, the commanding officer of VMFA-542, the squadron’s attainment of initial operational capability marks a significant advancement for the II Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II, with its advanced capabilities, provides unparalleled support to Marines against evolving threats, ensuring lethality, survivability, and interoperability.
The F-35B Lightning II, a fifth-generation fighter jet, boasts advanced stealth, agility, sensor fusion, and real-time access to battlespace information for the pilot. Designed to confront sophisticated adversaries, the F-35B enhances lethality, survivability, and supportability. Its short-takeoff and vertical-landing capability enable operations from amphibious assault ships and expeditionary airstrips, even those less than 2,000 feet long.
Col. James T. Bardo, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 14, expressed immense pride in VMFA-542’s achievement, emphasizing the unit’s exceptional dedication, ingenuity, and perseverance. This milestone not only showcases the squadron’s hard work but also highlights its rapid progression toward full operational capability and the completion of its F-35B Lightning II transition, a process initiated in December 2022.
VMFA-542 operates under the command of the 2nd MAW, which serves as the aviation combat element of the II Marine Expeditionary Force.