The Marines will stand up their first F-35 squadron tomorrow, according to an AP report. The unit, Marine Fighter-Attack Squadron 121, will be activated at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
The formation of this unit comes amid some controversy due to a February 2012 letter sent by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), which cited "significant testing problems" with the fifth-generation fighter.
While acknowledging progress, the Senators wrote, "more problems with the F-35B's structure and propulsion, potentially as serious as those that were originally identified a year ago, have been found. This is salient where the F-35B has completed only 20 percent of its developmental test plan to date."
The Senators felt that the decision to form the unit was "premature."
The deployment comes as the F-35's costs have exploded, with some projections predicting a $1 trillion cost for the program over 50 years.
The decision to deploy the plane has drawn support from Representative Duncan Hunter Jr., a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. "The ability for the F-35B to take off and land in an extremely constrained lading zone, that's huge for what it brings to the table. The Harrier was a great airplane but it was also limited. It doesn't have all the new technology. The F-35B has that," he told the AP.