Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501
The mission of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) is to conduct effective training and operations in the F-35B in coordination with joint and coalition partners in order to successfully attain the annual pilot training requirement. The Squadron is under the administrative control of Marine Aircraft Group 31, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, but is under the operational control of the US Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where the Squadron is based. The 33rd Fighter Wing is responsible for all F-35-related training activities across the services.
Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) was first established as Marine Fighter Squadron 451 (VMF-451) during World War II, eventually flying the F4U Corsair aircraft. The squadron saw combat in Japan in 1945, and later flew FJ-3 Fury aircraft in the 1950s and F-4 Phantoms over Vietnam in the 1960s. The "Warlords" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 451 (VMFA-451) were retired in 1997, at which time they were flying the F/A-18 Hornet.
On 1 April 2010, VMFA-451, which had been inactive for 13 years, was redesignated as Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501). On 2 April 2010, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, VMFAT-501 was formally activated to become the Marine Corps' first F-35B training squadron. The placement of VMFAT-501 under the operational control of the US Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing also marked the first time a Marine Corps squadron had ever been embedded in an Air Force wing.
On 11 January 2012, the Marine Corps welcomed its first F-35B aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base. As of July 2012, VMFAT-501 was authorized to operate 20 assigned F-35B aircraft, planning and executing a training curriculum in support of Marine and international partner training requirements. By 19 October 2012, VMFAT-501 had 13 F-35B aircraft. An additional 2 F-35B aircraft belonging to the UK were also part of the squadron at that time.
On 19 March 2013, the first international student aviator at the 33rd Fighter Wing, training to be an F-35B Lightning II instructor pilot, completed his first sortie in the joint strike fighter. United Kingdom Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Frankie Buchler flew with VMFAT-501.
On 22 May 2013, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron Five Zero One (VMFAT-501) had celebrated their one-year anniversary of flying the F-35B Lightning II aircraft from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Since 22 May 2012, the unit had flown 833 local training sorties and logged more than 1,100 flight hours executing about 40 to 50 sorties a week. VMFAT-501 also hosted the first international pilots and maintainers imbedded at an F-35 training squadron. 14 maintainers and 2 pilots from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy had worked seamlessly with the unit in its year of operation. In addition, VMFAT-501 provided support to the operations by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron One Two One (VMFA-121) at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. VMFA-121 was the first operational fleet squadron anywhere in the world for the F-35 and was comprised of flyers and maintainers trained at Eglin. In May 2013, a pilot trained at Eglin made his first vertical landing at Yuma.
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