The US Navy has declared an initial operational capability (IOC) of its F-35C Lightning II fighter, the last of the three F-35 variants to achieve the key milestone.
The IOC declaration comes after a successful final carrier qualification of 10 F-35Cs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 aboard the USS Carl Vinson late last year.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” head Naval Air Forces, VAdm DeWolfe Miller said in a statement. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
The USMC declared an IOC of the short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B variant in July 2015, and the USAF followed with the F-35A conventional take off and landing (CTOL) version in August 2016. IOC means at least one units of aircraft can be deployed operationally, and can supported through a raise, train, sustain model of personnel and spare parts.
For the US Navy, VFA-147 was certified as being properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct missions, with 10 aircraft. To this end, it had to prove it had sufficient spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).
“The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments,” RAdm Dale Horan said.
“This accomplishment represents years of hard work on the part of the F-35 Joint Program Office and Naval Aviation Enterprise. Our focus has now shifted to applying lessons learned from this process to future squadron transitions, and preparing VFA-147 for their first overseas deployment.”
Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 Program, Greg Ulmer said, “We congratulate the Department of the Navy on achieving Initial Operational Capability with its fleet of F-35Cs.
“This milestone is the result of unwavering dedication from our joint government and industry team focused on delivering the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world to the men and women of the US Navy. As we celebrate this achievement demonstrating the progress of the F-35 program, we’re also setting our sights forward to ensure the US Navy is ready for its first F-35C deployment.”
The F-35C’s first combat cruise aboard an aircraft carrier is expected to be on the USS Carl Vinson in 2021.