The US Navy has successfully conducted the first aircraft carrier F135 engine power module proof-of-concept vertical replenishment (VERTREP) at sea.

The development marks an important step forward in the future of the F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter.

During the VERTREP, a civilian EurocopterAS332 Super Puma and a US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 transported a load simulator.

The load simulator was replicated to weigh equivalent to an F135 engine power module, which powers the F-35C.

The helicopters vertically transferred the load from the dry-cargo ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) to the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

The exercise was conducted to offer a proof-of-concept to the US Navy in the maintenance and tactical operations functions of the F-35 aircraft at sea in the future.

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USS Carl Vinson is capable of supporting fifth-generation aircraft and can embark both the single-engine fixed-wing jet F-35C and the CMV-22B Osprey aircraft.

Vinson commanding officer captain Scott Miller said: “This exercise confirms the navy’s ability to maintain maritime operations in a new generation of jet fighter aircraft.

“What we’ve accomplished here ensures that our fleet will be capable of utilising the latest in cutting-edge, warfighting technology in future joint strike fighter deployments. With every success, we improve our readiness and maintain our capability to defend our nation and allies against any adversary.”

The vertical replenishment demonstration is the result of integrated operations between the carrier and air wing for over six months.

Last month, the new CMV-22B Osprey was used to transfer an F135 from shore to Vinson.

Vinson maintenance officer commander William Gray said: “Today’s success provides an additional option when replenishing parts to maintain the F-35C Lightning II while underway.”