The US Navy's fifth-generation F-35C Lightning II carrier-variant joint strike fighter (JSF) has successfully completed its initial sea trials aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), off the San Diego coast, validating its reliability and performance.
As part of the two-week initial at-sea developmental testing I (DT-I), the aircraft completed first-of-its-kind arrested-landing and maiden night-flight, further complying with the requirements for the first of three at-sea test phases scheduled for the F-35C.
US Navy test pilot lieutenant commander Ted Dyckman said: "We had such confidence in how the plane is flying that we lowered the weather minimums to what the fleet is actually using, knowing that when I lower my hook and come into the groove, I'm going to trap.
"That says a lot for the aeroplane. So, when it came time for night traps, we said the plane is ready and we launched it. It flew very well behind the ship."
The aircraft conducted 33 flights, featuring 124 catapults, 222 touch-and-go landings and 124 arrestments, logging 39.2 flight hours through a redesigned tailhook.
Further assessments also included general maintenance, fitness analysis and support equipment, in addition to simulated maintenance operations.
The aircraft will also undergo two more sea-based assessments in 2015 and 2016, prior to initial combat deployment in 2018.
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine, the multirole F-35C JSF aims to provide long-range detection and precision targeting using its electro-optical targeting system.
Image: The F-35C Lightning II JSF during its carrier-based night-flight operations on the USS Nimitz. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin, photo by Andy Wolfe.