By JULIE WATSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Sen. John McCain is welcoming the Marine Corps' first squadron of pilots who aim to fly the branch's version of the next-generation F-35 fighter jet out of its long and troubled testing phase.
McCain spoke Tuesday at a ceremony to inaugurate the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at its base in Yuma, Ariz.
The Arizona Republican says much work still needs to be done before the aircraft can be sent into combat.
But McCain says he is encouraged by the recent progress of the F-35 program and believes it is moving in the right direction.
His comments come months after he sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing concern that the Pentagon chief was prematurely ending testing of the F-35B aircraft that has had technical problems in its development.
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