The Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft squadron, the “Grim Reapers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, will host a rollout ceremony for their new aircraft at the squadron’s home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 1.
The rollout ceremony will commemorate the long, storied history of the “Grim Reapers” and the establishment of VFA-101 as the Navy’s first F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron.
The F-35C is a fifth generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
Navy leaders, including Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Bill E. Gortney, and Commander, Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. David H. Buss, will speak at the ceremony, along with Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President and General Manager, F-35 Lightning II Program, Lorraine M. Martin.
VFA-101 received the Navy’s first F-35C June 22, 2013, from Lockheed Martin, becoming the Navy’s first F-35C squadron, and completed its first check flight in the squadron’s new aircraft Aug. 14, a milestone that reinforced the Navy-industry partnership and represented a step forward in the development of the Navy’s next generation fighter. As the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, VFA-101 trains Navy aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly and repair the F-35C.
The F-35 Lightning II brings a broad range of force packages to the fleet – capitalizing on the integration of advanced mission systems, stealth technology and supersonic capability across three F-35 variants. The F-35C will enhance the flexibility, power projection, and strike capabilities of carrier air wings and joint task forces and will complement the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which currently serves as the Navy’s premier strike fighter.
By 2025, the Navy’s aircraft carrier-based air wings will consist of a mix of the F-35C, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler, E-2D Hawkeye, Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike air vehicles, MH-60R/S helicopters and Carrier Onboard Delivery logistics aircraft.
Since June 1942, “Grim Reapers” has served as the nickname for three different squadrons – Fighter Squadron (VF) 10, VF-101 and now Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 – flying various aircraft, including the F4F Wildcat, the FG1-D Corsair, the F-4 Phantom, the F-14 Tomcat and currently the F-35C. The “Grim Reapers” flew combat missions in the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Korean War and at various times since World War II, served as trainers for future naval aviators joining the fleet.