The Commander, Naval Air Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation jointly announced that the aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, met all requirements and achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC). The Feb. 28 announcement comes shortly after the Department of the Navy’s first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, completed aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and received Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.
In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office, industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations.
Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore is the home-base for the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing, Navy F-35C fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VFA-125 that trains Navy and Marine Corps CVN-based Joint Strike Fighter pilots. To accommodate the F-35C program at NAS Lemoore, several facilities were built or remodeled to facilitate specific F-35C requirements with regard to maintenance and training, including a Pilot Fit Facility, Centralized Engine Repair Facility, Pilot Training Center and a newly-remodeled hangar. Future projects are planned as additional Navy squadrons transition into the F-35C. The Marine Corps plans to transition four F-35C squadrons that will be assigned to Carrier Air Wings for deployments.
The mission-ready F-35C is the latest addition to U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing. With its stealth technology, state-of-the-art avionics, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the aircraft carrier-based F-35C provides unprecedented air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close-air-support as well as advanced command and control functions through fused sensors. These state-of-the art capabilities provide pilots and combatant commanders unrivaled battlespace awareness and lethality. The F-35C is the final U.S. Joint Strike Fighter variant to declare IOC and follows the USAF’s F-35A and USMC’s F-35B. IOC declaration is a significant milestone.