The US Navy’s first F-35C test aircraft, CF-1, has exceeded test and evaluation programme scores during test flights conducted this year.

The aircraft has completed 36 test flights to evaluate flutter, loads and mission systems, which is half the programme’s goal of 85 for the year at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, US.

US Marine Corps colonel Roger Cordell said the aircraft has been performing well, even with a number of planned and unplanned maintenance periods.

The aircraft will undergo first carrier suitability testing this summer, with shipboard testing scheduled to begin in 2013.

The F-35C is the carrier variant of the F-35 joint strike fighter, with larger wing control surfaces and reinforced landing gear to operate in the maritime environment.