F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Carrier Variant

F-35C CATOBAR is an advanced fifth generation fighter carrier variant designed and being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corporation for the US Navy and the UK Royal Navy.




Lockheed Martin


United States Navy and Royal Navy

Maiden Flight

June 2010


F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Carrier Variant

F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) is an advanced fifth generation fighter carrier variant designed and being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corporation for the US Navy and the UK Royal Navy. It will be the first stealth bomber aircraft in the fleet of the US Navy. It will supersede F/A-18B/C and A-6 Intruder, balancing the 480 F/A-18E/F aircraft.

The US Navy awarded a $39.3m contract to Lockheed Martin in April 2012 to overhaul the air system design and testing for F-35C fighter aircraft. Work on the modernisation is expected to be completed by October 2014.

F-35C carrier variant design

The critical design review of the F-35C was completed in June 2007. The F-35C is designed by modifying the standard F-35 joint strike fighter (JSF). The design modifications include larger wings and tail control surfaces to meliorate low-speed control, and larger wing area to minimise the landing speeds while maximising range and payload capacity. The aircraft is designed to launch from the flight deck of a large aircraft carrier through steam catapult and can recovered by using a tailhook arrestor.

F-35C Joint Strike Fighter development

Tanker qualification trials on the F-35C with a series of air-to-air refuelling behind the US Air Force KC-10 tanker aircraft were carried out in January 2001. The first F-35C was rolled out from Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth Facility, Texas in July 2009. The aircraft carried out drop testing at Vought Aircraft in April 2010. The maiden flight of the aircraft took place in June 2010.

The F-35C accomplished supersonic speed in March 2011 during a flight test at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The first steam catapult launch of the aircraft was completed in July 2011.

The aircraft integrated with an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) was flight tested for the first time by the US Navy in November 2011.

The first formation testing was conducted at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in April 2012.

The shipboard testing is expected to be carried out in 2013. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2015.

F-35C features

The F-35C will feature a refuelling probe on the right side of the front fuselage to carry out mid-air refuelling during combat missions. It will be fitted with a tricycle type retractable undercarriage comprising two single-wheeled main gear legs and a two-wheeled nose gear.

Most of the features of F-35 JSF such as weapon loads, cockpit layout, countermeasures and radars are retained in the F-35C variant.


The F-35C will be armed with a 25mm GAU-22A series cannon which can fire munitions at the rate of 220 rounds per gun. It will comprise six hardpoints, including four underwing and two internal weapon bays. It can carry up to 8,160kg of payload.

The aircraft will also be fitted with AIM-120 AMRAAM medium range air to air missile, air to surface guided missiles, two GBU-31 JDAM guided bombs, eight GBU-38 bombs and munition dispensers.


The F-35C will be powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engine rated at 125kN of dry thrust. The engine can generate 191.3kN of thrust afterburner. It is derived from F119-PW-100 turbofan engine. It is equipped with full authority digital engine control, a gearbox, and health and usage monitoring system.

The engine is 5.5m long and 1.3m in diameter. Its inlet diameter is 1.1m.


The F-35C can fly at a maximum speed of 1,960km/h. The combat radius and maximum range of the aircraft will be 1,100km and 2,200km respectively.

Orders and deliveries

The US Marine Corps will procure 80 F-35Cs under an agreement signed with the US Navy in March 2011. The USMC will share their F-35Cs with Navy Carrier Air Wings.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced in October 2010 to procure approximately 50 F-35Cs for deployment with Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. The deal was, however, cancelled in May 2012 as the MoD found F-35B to be a cheaper alternative.

Related projects

F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

Overview of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) programme being developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company for the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and the UK Royal Navy.

F-35B Joint Strike Fighter STOVL Variant

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