On Feb. 14, CF-6, first Lockheed Martin production model F-35C carrier variant, made its maiden flight from LM’s facility at Forth Worth, Texas.
Since it will delivered to the US Navy Fighter Attack Squadron 101 (VFA-101) “Grim Reapers” at Eglin AFB, Florida, the F-35C CF-6 sported cool high-visibility color scheme and markings.
The Grim Repers were established in May 1952, flew various fighter jets, including the F-4 Phantom and F-14 Tomcat before being disbanded in 2005.
It was reestablished in May 2012, to support the U.S. Navy version of the CV (carrier variant) and serve as Fleet Replacement Squadron, training Joint Strike Fighter pilots and maintainers as a subordinate unit of the joint 33 Fighter Wing.
The CF-6 will be the first carrier variant F-35 assigned to Eglin: 9 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) jets and 13 F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) jets are already based there.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin
Eglin has been the F-35 base for both F-35A and F-35B training, so, from a resources perspective, it makes sense to have the F-35C RAG based there, as well.
When VF-101 was a Phantom RAG, it was based out of NAS Cecil Field and then NAS Key West. It shifted to NAS Oceana when it adopted the Tomcat.
I can remember when VF-101 was at NAS Oceana, I was in VF-31 65to69 I think we spent every winter at Oceana :(