Lt. Cmdr. Chris Tabert makes the first F-35C flight for Strike Fighter Squadron 101 on Wednesday at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Liz Kaszynski / Lockheed Martin via Navy)
Strike Fighter Squadron 101, re-established in May 2012 as the fleet’s first F-35 squadron, hit a major milestone Wednesday with its inaugural sortie in the jet’s carrier variant.
Lt. Cmdr. Chris Tabert made the 1.3-hour flight under an interim “safe for flight” status granted to the squadron Aug. 8, according to a Navy news release. The flight took place at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which also hosts Air Force and Marine Corps F-35 units.
VFA-101 received its first carrier variant in June, the release said. It will train aircrew and ground-crew members on the new jet.
“Now that we’re flying, we’ll be able to validate and evaluate both the pilot and the maintainer syllabi as we train the initial cadre of instructors,” Capt. John Enfield, the squadron’s commanding officer, said in the release.
The “Grim Reapers” of VFA-101 were reactivated May 1, 2012 — the squadron’s 60th anniversary. The nickname goes back even further — it was attached to Fighter Squadron 10 during World War II, according to VFA-101’s official website.
VF-10 was deactivated in 1945, and VF-101 came online as the “Grim Reapers” in 1952. That squadron was disestablished in 2005.
In May, the Navy said the F-35C would reach initial operational capability by February 2019.