US Navy’s first F-35C fleet soon to complete final at-sea developmental test phase

29 August 2016 (Last Updated August 29th, 2016 18:30)

The US Navy’s first fleet of seven F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft is set to successfully complete the third and final round of at-sea developmental testing, DT-III, aboard the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73), on 1 September.

The US Navy’s first fleet of seven F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft is set to successfully complete the third and final round of at-sea developmental testing, DT-III, aboard the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73), on 1 September.

During DT-III, the aircrafts’ initial onshore catapult and arresting gear were tested, including several operational cats and traps.

The 20-day testing period's objectives are external symmetric and asymmetric weapon loadings, launches and recoveries at maximum weight, approach handling qualities, landing systems certification, and engine logistics.

"We are bringing a stealthy airplane to the carrier decks for the first time."

VX-23 test detachment officer in charge test pilot lieutenant commander Daniel Kitts said: "The ability to bring the aircraft back aboard the ship safely the first time, every time for the most junior pilot to the most senior is one of its major advantages.

"Also, the incorporation of its mission systems to the pilot and the fusion of that information is really going to make it a lethal tactical platform.

“Lastly, its ability to share that information with other assets in the fleet is going to help build the picture for the whole carrier strike group. Not to mention, we are bringing a stealthy airplane to the carrier decks for the first time."

The testing also saw the use of a Lockheed Martin-developed semi-automated landing mode, Delta Flight Path, which is designed to ease the landing of jets on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

Improved night-time visibility for the aircraft's third generation helmet, which displays symbology on the pilot's visor, was also tested.

There were 12 instructors and pilots from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 that also completed the navy's first fleet carrier qualifications, with each pilot carrying out two touch-and-goes, and ten arrested landings.

In 2014, the F-35C aircraft conducted its first shipboard test flights aboard USS Nimitz, followed by developmental testing aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower.

The US Navy is expected to declare the initial operational capability of the F-35C aircraft in 2018.


Image: F-35C aircraft attempting to land on USS George Washington. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wyatt L. Anthony/Released.