The military's most costly weapons system and latest stealth fighter jet, the F-35B is combat-ready, officials announced Friday.
F-35B Lightning II aircraft landed in San Diego at MCAS Miramar on Wednesday.
“There's no other airplane in the world that I would want to be in especially if I had to go to combat than this airplane right here - bar none,” said pilot Lt. Col. Chad Vaughn.
Ten jets are ready for world-wide deployment and a Yuma-based U.S. Marines air squadron is the first to become operational, the Commandant of the Marine Corps announced Friday.
"The F-35B's ability to conduct operations from expeditionary airstrips or sea-based carriers provides our Nation with its first 5th generation strike fighter, which will transform the way we fight and win," Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a written release.
Lt. Col. Vaughn is one of 50 pilots trained to handle the aircraft that can hit speeds of 900 to 1,000 miles per hour.
While the jet is stealth, Vaughn says its sensor capability can identify short and long range threats and ability to pass on that information on that sets it apart.
Critics have cited cost overruns for the $391 billion weapons program and the repeated delays
Marine pilots say the delays have allowed them to work closely with Lockheed Martin making changes to complicated software, essential so that the planes are operating safely and effectively from the start.
The aircraft was cleared following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), which concluded July 17. It’s also undergone testing for seven weeks at sea aboard an L-Class carrier.
The jets are expected to replace the AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler.