Twentynine Palms, California -- Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 conducted the F-35B Lightning II’s first-ever expeditionary test in support of exercise Steel Knight 16, Dec. 10.
Exercise Steel Knight is a combined arms live-fire exercise that implements a combination of air and ground assets to complete a wide range of military operations to prepare 1st Marine Division for deployment as the ground combat element of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
VMFA-121’s role in the exercise was to conduct close air support drills and expeditionary missions in support of the MAGTF.
During the exercise, the F-35 utilized the expeditionary airfield on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, and the expeditionary landing pad at Red Beach on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
“We’ve done similar landings in [Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona], but the one at Red Beach was the smallest vertical landing pad we have used to date,” said Maj. Colin Newbold, the flight operations officer with VMFA-121.
Exercise Steel Knight allowed VMFA-121 the opportunity to illustrate the abilities of the F-35 to operate organically in an austere environment while helping accomplish the mission of the MAGTF.
“This is the first time that we get to truly test the capabilities of the aircraft in an expeditionary setting,” said Maj. Colin Newbold, the flight operations officer with VMFA-121. “This is going to be a real learning experience for everyone involved and will prove helpful in the future when developing tactics.”