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​Four F-35B Lighting II strike fighters sit secured to the deck after their arrival aboard the USS Wasp, May 18, 2015. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford declared initial operational capability with the F-35B Friday afternoon, just making the July 2015 plan for declaration, set just over two years ago. In a statement, Dunford, who was just confirmed to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was “pleased to announce” that Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., has met the conditions required for IOC. That means 10 aircraft in the 2B software configuration, with “the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or ship.” The F-35B, he said, is capable of “conducting close air support, offensive and defensive counterair, air interdiction, assault escort support, and armed reconnaissance” as part of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force or in support of a joint force. Dunford noted a recent seven-week, at-sea series of tests with the aircraft, during which the F-35 “participated in multiple large-force exercises” and delivered live ordnance. In addition, the unit passed an operational readiness inspection last week.  He said USMC has “trained and qualified” 50 pilots and certified “about 500 maintainers” capable of “autonomous, organic-level maintenance support” for the aircraft.