Inside Look: U.S. Marine Corps F-35B's Historic Touchdown in Sweden

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March 19, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: SwedenNATOF-35F-35BMilitaryDefenseRussia

Inside Look: U.S. Marine Corps F-35B's Historic Touchdown in Sweden

In a landmark event for Sweden as a recent NATO member, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and a KC-130J Super Hercules landed at Kallax Air Base in Luleå, Sweden, marking the first time these advanced stealth aircraft operated from Swedish soil.

 

Summary: In a landmark event for Sweden as a recent NATO member, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and a KC-130J Super Hercules landed at Kallax Air Base in Luleå, Sweden, marking the first time these advanced stealth aircraft operated from Swedish soil. This deployment was part of Exercise Nordic Response 24, aimed at enhancing military capabilities and allied cooperation in Arctic conditions. The exercise showcased the F-35B’s versatile capabilities in near-peer adversary training, including anti-air warfare and strike operations. It also demonstrated the U.S.'s commitment to NATO and its readiness to operate in challenging environments, strengthening interoperability among allies. The arrival of VMFA-542's F-35Bs, the first East Coast operational F-35 squadron in the U.S. Marine Corps, underscored the advanced capabilities and readiness of NATO forces in the face of evolving global threats.

Sweden Hosts U.S. F-35B Stealth Fighters for the First Time Amid NATO Exercise

Last week marked the first time a United States F-35 Lightning II fighter landed in Sweden and the first time the fifth-generation stealth aircraft operated from Kallax Air Base. Four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252, 2nd MAW, conducted distributed aviation operations (DAO) during Exercise Nordic Response 24 from the air base in Lulea, Sweden.

 

It was one of the first training events conducted by Sweden as a NATO member.

"We're thrilled to welcome the first American F-35 landing here at Kallax Air Force Base, and it's an F-35B from the U.S. Marine Corps," said Swedish Brig. Gen. Tommy Petersson, deputy commander of the Swedish Air Force. "For the U.S. Marine Corps of course, it's a part of the agile combat employment portion in the framework of the exercise we’re conducting together right now, Nordic Response 24."

The U.S. Marine Corps aircraft and personnel from the three flying squadrons of the 2nd MAW, II Marine Expeditionary Force had arrived in Norway last month in preparation for the exercise.

The joint military drills were designed to enhance military capabilities and allied cooperation in high-intensity warfighting scenarios under challenging arctic conditions while providing U.S. Marines unique opportunities to train alongside NATO allies and partners. It provided an opportunity for U.S. Marine Corps aviation platforms to use a Swedish air base and host-nation support to conduct aviation-delivered ground refueling from a U.S. KC-130J Super Hercules to U.S. F-35B aircraft.

During the exercise, VMFA-542 employed the F-35B – the short/vertical takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter – in near-peer adversary training exercises in a variety of scenarios including anti-air warfare, active air defense, suppression-of-enemy air defense, and strike capabilities.

Both VMFA-542 and VMGR-252 were deployed from their home base of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Earlier this month, United States Air Force B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress bombers flew over Stockholm, escorted by Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighters to mark the Nordic nation becoming the newest member of the NATO alliance.

First East Coast Operational F-35 Squadron

It was only last month that VMFA-542 became the first East Coast operational F-35 squadron in the U.S. Marine Corps. It achieved initial operational capability on February 5 – meaning that it had enough operational F-35B Lightning II aircraft, trained pilots, maintainers, and support equipment to self-sustain its mission-essential tasks (METs). These METs include conducting close-air support, offensive anti-air warfare, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and electronic attacks.

"VMFA-542 is the first operational fifth-generation squadron in II Marine Expeditionary Force, giving the aviation combat element the most lethal, survivable, and interoperable strike fighter in the U.S. inventory," said Lt. Col. Brian Hansell, commanding officer of VMFA-542. "The F-35B is unmatched in its capability to support Marines against the advanced threats that we can expect in the future."

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Achieving initial operational capability further meant that VMFA-542 was one step closer to achieving full operational capability and completing its F-35B Lightning II transition, a process that began in December 2022.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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