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Up close with VMX-1

Photo: A VMX-1 F-35B over MCAS Yuma. This image is the magazine centrespread this month. Jamie Hunter


The May issue of Combat Aircraft is out this week and it’s time to get up close and personal with the Marine Corps’ operational testers of VMX-1 and its F-35Bs as editor Jamie Hunter reports from Arizona.

Shot during an exclusive aerial photoshoot, the images were taken when VMX-1 detached a jet to MCAS Yuma from the joint test team base at Edwards AFB.

‘This unit is unique in that I work directly for the deputy commandant for aviation, Lt Gen Davis’, says VMX-1 boss Col George Rowell, speaking to Combat Aircraft in his busy office at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. He and his team have to maintain a clear watch on a wide range of programs, from the MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor to the RQ-21 Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicle. However, the program that inevitably grabs the headlines is the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. Not only does Col Rowell have to find time to run his squadron and to maintain a clear view of all of his programs, he is also leading from the front as an operational evaluation F-35B pilot.

‘All of my F-35 guys are currently up at Edwards AFB’, adds Col Rowell. ‘I have a detachment commander there, Lt Col John ‘Guts’ Price, who is the slated commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 ‘Werewolves’, the next operational F-35B squadron. He took over from Lt Col Richard ‘BC’ Rusnok, who has just taken command of VMFA-121 in Japan, so you can see the caliber of guys we have in the F-35 program — it’s quite amazing.’

The new issue is on sale this Thursday. The iPad version is available worldwide from Thursday and feature bonus images and videos.

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