The US Navy has taken delivery of the first F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) carrier variant aircraft from Lockheed Martin to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Scheduled to achieve initial operational capability in 2019, the F-35C catapult-assisted takeoff barrier arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft features advanced stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations, and advanced sustainment.
Lockheed Martin executive vice-president and F-35 programme general manager Lorraine Martin said: "The F-35 represents the new standard in weapon systems integration, maintainability, combat radius and payload that brings true multi-mission capability to the navy."
Powered by a single Pratt and Whitney F135 turbofan engine, the F-35C can fly at a maximum speed of 1,960km/h and can be launched through a steam catapult and recovered by using a tailhook arrestor.
The F-35C stealth bomber aircraft will complement the US Navy’s currently operational Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet premier strike fighter by providing enhanced flexibility, power projection, and strike capabilities.
The aircraft is also being developed in two other variants, conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant for the US Air Force, and a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft for the US Marine Corps and UK Royal Navy.
The US Navy’s aircraft carrier-based air wings will comprise F-35C, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft, E-2D Hawkeye battle management and control aircraft by 2025.
Unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) air vehicles, Sikorsky MH-60R/S helicopters and carrier onboard delivery logistics aircraft will also be included in the carrier-based air wings.
Serving as the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, VFA 101 will train aircrew and maintenance personnel to operate and repair the F-35C aircraft for the US Navy.
Image: A US Navy’s F-35C aircraft based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, US. Photo: courtesy of Todd R McQueen, Lockheed Martin.