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Production of Rolls-Royce's lift fan for the Marine Corps' F-35B strike fighter continues to advance, according to Tom Hartmann, the company's senior vice president for defense. Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., on June 4, Hartmann said the company's work in maturing the lift fan helped enable the F-35B's first-ever vertical takeoff on May 10 at NAS Patuxent River, Md. Another milestone was the stand-up of the first operational F-35B squadron, the VMFA-121 "Green Knights," at MCAS Yuma, Ariz. The squadron has three aircraft undergoing "training, testing, and actual flying every single day," and the airplanes have amassed more than 1,000 hours doing both takeoffs and vertical landings, said Hartmann. The next step for the squadron is "full sea trials to get the full operational qualifications," he said. Last week, the Pentagon released a report to Congress stating that the Marine Corps anticipates the F-35B will be capable of initial real-world operations by December 2015. In 2012, Rolls-Royce received a $315 million contract for Lot 4 low-rate production of 17 lift fans. The fan enables the jet's vertical lift.