The May issue of Combat Aircraft is out this week and it’s time to get up close and personal with the Marine Corps’ operational testers of VMX-1 and its F-35Bs as editor Jamie Hunter reports from Arizona.
Shot during an exclusive aerial photoshoot, the images were taken when VMX-1 detached a jet to MCAS Yuma from the joint test team base at Edwards AFB.
‘This unit is unique in that I work directly for the deputy commandant for aviation, Lt Gen Davis’, says VMX-1 boss Col George Rowell, speaking to Combat Aircraft in his busy office at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. He and his team have to maintain a clear watch on a wide range of programs, from the MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor to the RQ-21 Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicle. However, the program that inevitably grabs the headlines is the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. Not only does Col Rowell have to find time to run his squadron and to maintain a clear view of all of his programs, he is also leading from the front as an operational evaluation F-35B pilot.
‘All of my F-35 guys are currently up at Edwards AFB’, adds Col Rowell. ‘I have a detachment commander there, Lt Col John ‘Guts’ Price, who is the slated commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 ‘Werewolves’, the next operational F-35B squadron. He took over from Lt Col Richard ‘BC’ Rusnok, who has just taken command of VMFA-121 in Japan, so you can see the caliber of guys we have in the F-35 program — it’s quite amazing.’
The new issue is on sale this Thursday. The iPad version is available worldwide from Thursday and feature bonus images and videos.