An F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter lands at Marine Air Station Miramar, Calif., Jan. 21, 2020.

An F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter lands at Marine Air Station Miramar, Calif., Jan. 21, 2020. (Dominic Romero/U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps is slated to activate its second F-35C Lightning II fighter jet squadron during a ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

The unit will be the reactivated version of Marine Attack Squadron 311, which had cased its colors in October 2020 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., the Marine Corps said in a news release Monday. That squadron’s aviators had flown AV-8 Harrier jets since 1988.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311 will become the Marine Corps’ second operational squadron to fly the “C” version of the F-35 fighter jet, the release said. It joins Miramar-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, which began flying its first F-35Cs in 2020.

On its website, manufacturer Lockheed Martin describes the F-35C as “the first and world’s only long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built explicitly for Navy carrier operations.” The C model is equipped with landing gear and folding wingtips for carrier operations.

The second F-35C squadron is part of the aviation plan released last year by the Marine Corps, 2nd Lt. Andrew Baez, a spokesman for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“The plan prioritizes readiness, reinforces the importance of flying from the sea, and refocuses on manpower, support to logistics and modern capabilities,” the Marine Corps said in a May news release.

The aviation plan in turn supports the service’s overall modernization effort called Force Design 2030, the release said. That overhaul intends to refocus the Corps from the land-based warfare seen over two decades in Afghanistan to what might be expected during a conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific.

“The F-35C brings a long-range fighter/attack platform with the most advanced stealth and sensor capabilities in the Marine Corps,” Lt. Col. Michael Fisher, who will assume command of Squadron 311 on Friday, said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “The Harrier was a great weapon that served the Marine Corps well and has been replaced with a more advanced and capable platform. The F-35 was designed for the near-term and future fight.”

The reactivated squadron possesses a legacy reaching back to World War II, when it was established on Dec. 1, 1942, as Marine Fighter Squadron 311. It was deployed to the Pacific in the spring of 1943 flying F4U-1 Corsair fighters.

Its final missions during World War II were dive bombing and patrolling during the Battle of Okinawa in early 1945.

The squadron began flying jets in 1948, piloting the first jet fighter missions for the Corps during the Korean War.

The squadron flew A-4 fighter jets during the almost decade-long span of the Vietnam War. It was the first Marine Corps squadron to fly AV-8 Harriers in combat during Operation Desert Shield in the early 1990s.

The squadron flew numerous combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

author picture
Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now