MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. — The first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter to land in San Diego touched down Tuesday afternoon, marking the first time one of the jets landed away from an F-35 base.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Scott, commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, the Green Knights, flew the fighter plane from its home base in Yuma, Ariz., to California for the test flight. The Marine version of the F-35 has a system that allows it to take off and land vertically, but Scott did not demonstrate that capability Tuesday.

The technology in the jet is “way far ahead of what we had before in previous aircraft,” Scott told reporters gathered at the runway. “The way the systems work together is many steps ahead of what we had previously.”

The F-35 program has come under fire for escalating costs, with the total program expected to cost nearly $400 billion. The Marine Corps version of the jet is expected to be ready for combat ahead of the Navy and Air Force versions, in 2015. It will replace the Marines’ AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets immediately and later also replace the EA-6A Prowler.

Scott is the commander of the Marine Corps’ first F-35 operational squadron. Right now, he said, the pilots are learning about the airplane and doing training missions, and will be able to field the aircraft more quickly once the mission systems software is complete.

Once the program is ready, the Green Knights will have 16 of the fighter jets and deploy to Iwakuni, Japan. Yuma will have four 16-jet F-35B squadrons, Marine spokesman Capt. Richard Ulsh said. Twitter: @jhlad

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