A Yuma, Arizona-based Marine AV-8B Harrier squadron will officially be redesignated Thursday as it welcomes brand-new F-35B Joint Strike Fighters.

Marine Attack Squadron 211 will be the second operational F-35B squadron for the Marine Corps, coming online 11 months after the service announced initial operating capability for the aircraft last July. It joins Yuma-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 in operating the fifth generation aircraft.

The Thursday ceremony will re-designate VMA-211 as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211. According to a news release from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, the squadron received its first two F-35B aircraft on May 9 — three days after it completed its final flights with the Harrier. Officials did not immediately respond to a request about when the remaining joint strike fighters made by Lockheed Martin Corp. would join the squadron.

At the same time, the unit will observe a change of command as outgoing commanding officer Lt. Col. William Maples passes authority to Lt. Col. Chad Vaughn.

The F-35B is ultimately set to replace the Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet, and the EA-6B Prowler for the Marine Corps. According to Marine officials, the Prowler will be the first to retire, sun-downing its four squadrons at the rate of one per year beginning this year.

The Harrier is set to retire in 2026, and Hornets will fly into the 2030s.

Watch: F-35B Fighter Jets arrive in Japan on first overseas mission

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This new squadron of F-35s becomes operational as the Corps prepares to deploy its first squadron of the fifth-generation fighters next year.

VMFA-121 will deploy to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in January, officials have said. In fall of next year, the squadron will depart with an amphibious ready group on a pump around the Western Pacific.

Other Marine joint strike fighter squadrons are scheduled to come online soon.

According to Marine officials, Beaufort, South Carolina’s VMFA-122, a F/A-18 Hornet squadron, will begin receiving the F-35B in 2018. Two more squadrons, Beaufort-based VMFA-115 and Yuma-based VMA-311, will transition from Hornets and Harriers respectively to the joint strike fighter beginning in 2020.

Read more at Military.com

Image courtesy of news.usni.org