Warlords Fly Latest F-35 at MCAs Beaufort Air Show

By Second Line of Defense

We had a chance to attend the 2019 Beaufort MCAS Airshow on Friday, April 26, 2019.

A visit the day before with the CO of the Warlords provided the framework for viewing the airshow and its star, the F-35 with its 3F software capabilities.

The upgrade from the earlier version for the Marines, the 2B, requires a hardware and software upgrade, which included an expanded flight envelope which is very clear to the naked eye when you witness a flight demo of this new variant of the aircraft.

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501), known as the “Warlords,” stood up in 2010 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and trained the initial group of Marine Corps F-35B pilots there.

In late 2014, the Pilot Training Center and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 began the first F-35 pilot training course.

Editor’s Note: From the outset of the F-35 program, the approach was to develop six key software releases known as blocks:

Block 1A/1B – Block 1 comprises 78 percent of the more than 8.3 million source lines of code required for the F-35’s full warfighting capability. Block 1A was the ready for training configuration while Block 1B provided initial multi-level security.

Block 2A – Block 2A is currently released to the F-35 fleet. It provides enhanced training including functionality for off-board fusion, initial data links, electronic attack and mission debrief. With Block 2A, nearly 86 percent of the required code for full warfighting capability is flying.

Block 2B – Block 2B provides initial warfighting capabilities, including but not limited to expanded data links, multi-ship fusion and initial live weapons. The U.S. Marines declared IOC in July 2015 with Block 2B. With Block 2B, more than 87 percent of the required code for full warfighting capability is flying.

Block 3i – Block 3i provides the same tactical capabilities as Block 2B. The principal difference between 2B and 3i is the implementation of new hardware, specifically the updated Integrated Core Processor. The Air Force declared IOC with Block 3i in August 2016. With Block 3i, 89 percent of code required for full warfighting capability is flying.

Block 3F – Block 3F provides 100 percent of the software required for full warfighting capability, including but not limited to data link imagery, full weapons and embedded training

Some of the flight characteristics demonstrated by a Block 3F F-35 can be seen in the following video

And for those who wonder why on earth the USAF is having F-15s pushed down its throats – and without a requirements assessment process to boot – it runs out that Shannon Erickson in an article published by the Beaufort Gazette and the Island Packet is asking the same question.

You can imagine my surprise when I read that the Pentagon brass is trying to push the Air Force to buy F-15s instead of F-35s. The F-15 has been in production since 1976, and production of this fourth-generation airplane is due to end in 2022.

The F-35 capabilities can never be added to an old F-15 aircraft, because what makes the F-35 a fifth-generation fighter is built into its stealthy structure, advanced avionics, and helmet with a 365-degree view.

The first time I saw an F-35B fly, I was amazed at its power, but when I had the chance to fly the cockpit demonstrator, the power and advanced capabilities became real to me. Our men and women in uniform need these capabilities to stay safe in our uncertain world.

Would you want your son or daughter to go to war with less protection than was available because someone in the Pentagon thought that 45-year-old airplane was good enough? Those of us living in the area — and truly across the Palmetto State — are proud, as the F-35 sound of freedom protects our country and makes our world safer.

Our Beaufort Marines know that their F-35 planes are on the front lines of fighting tyranny. From North Korea to Syria, both American and international F-35 pilots are showing the vital difference made by the only fifth-generation fighter jet so far operating in the world.

As you watch the amazing capabilities of the F-35 at the Beaufort air show this weekend, realize that you are watching a fighter that the world envies and that is contributing to the economy of our state, safety of our men and women in uniform, and protecting America.


The video shows a pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) flying the F-35B Lightning II during the 2019 Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Air Show, April 27, 2019.

Video by Cpl. Kathryn Adams
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Some of the flight characteristics demonstrated by a Block 3F F-35 can be seen in the following video shot in 2018 of that version of the F-35.

Or if you prefer, you can watch an Aussie pilot fly his Block 3F F-35 at the Avalon Air Show earlier this year.

In this video by Spencer Hughes which he published on February 22, 2019, the air demo by the RAAF F-35 at the Melbourne Air Show is highlighted.

According to the Australian Department of Defence:

The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter is the Australian Defence Force’s first fifth-generation air combat capability. It is a highly advanced multi-role, supersonic, stealth fighter which will meet Australia’s requirements to defeat current and emerging threats.

The F-35A is at the forefront of air combat technology.  Its advanced sensors and data fusion allows it to gather more information and share it with other Air Force aircraft, Navy ships and Army units quicker than ever before. This will greatly enhance the Australian Defence Force’s situational awareness and combat effectiveness. In addition, to greatly enhanced situational awareness, the F-35A provides its pilots with significantly higher levels of lethality and survivability in combat.

Australia has committed to 72 F-35A aircraft for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018 and the first squadron, Number 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

In the future, a fourth operational squadron will be considered for RAAF Base Amberley, for a total of 100 F-35A aircraft.

The F-35A is being purchased by the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group under project AIR 6000.

Mentioning allies makes sense for Beaufort MCAS, because the British have trained with the Marines there and when they leave this summer, the Italians are coming in next to work their F-35B training.