The US Navy’s carrier-based, fifth generation fighter has achieved initial operational capability, the Commander, Naval Air Forces and the US Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation jointly announced.
The aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, met all requirements and achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) shortly after the navy’s first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, completed aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and received Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.
In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).
Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office, industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” said Commander Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore is the home-base for the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing, Navy F-35C fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VFA-125 that trains Navy and Marine Corps CVN-based Joint Strike Fighter pilots.
To accommodate the F-35C program at NAS Lemoore, several facilities were built or remodeled to facilitate specific F-35C requirements with regard to maintenance and training, including a Pilot Fit Facility, Centralized Engine Repair Facility, Pilot Training Center and a newly-remodeled hangar. Future projects are planned as additional Navy squadrons transition into the F-35C. The Marine Corps plans to transition four F-35C squadrons that will be assigned to Carrier Air Wings for deployments.
“We’re very proud of what our sailors have accomplished in the Joint Strike Fighter community,” said CAPT Max McCoy, commodore of the US Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing. “Their commitment to mission delivered fifth generation capability to the carrier air wing, making us more combat effective than ever before. We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment. The addition of F-35C to existing carrier air wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”
The F-35C is the final US Joint Strike Fighter variant to declare IOC and follows the USAF’s F-35A and USMC’s F-35B.