The F-35 Is Finally Coming To The World's Oceans Thanks To The US Navy

Military Tech

The United States Navy is conducting operational testing of the new Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter onboard USS Abraham Lincoln together with Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and other aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 7.


Operational Test-1 (OT-1) marks the first time the stealthy single-engine F-35C aircraft have flown with a carrier air wing during cyclic operations, where aircraft simulate operationally representative missions and where jets are continuously launching and recovering onboard the carrier. Previously, the F-35C had only flown carrier qualification sorties together with the F/A-18E/F and other carrier air wing aircraft. In addition to testing how well the F-35C integrates with the rest of the carrier air wing, the Navy will evaluate how effective the new Joint Strike Fighter is during operational usage.

“This is the first time we really see how the aircraft works on the aircraft carrier,” Rear Adm. Dale Horan, director, Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration Office, said. “How we do maintenance and sustain it while we’re at sea; how it integrates with the ship; how it interoperates with communications, data links, the other aircraft; and how we conduct missions and tie in to other aircraft when we conduct missions.”

An F-35C Lightning II aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 makes an arrested landing during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on August 20, 2018.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Brooks

One of the Navy’s goals for OT-1 is to evaluate how VFA-125’s F-35Cs integrate with the rest of CVW-7 and Carrier Strike Group 12 and how effectively the jets complete their missions in an operational setting. During OT-1, the F-35Cs are flying alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning planes and other aircraft just as they would during real-world combat missions.

“The effectiveness piece is what we’re doing when we’re airborne and executing missions,” Capt. Matt Norris, Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team, said. “We’ve been integrating with the strike group and accomplishing many missions like defensive counter air and anti-submarine warfare, for instance.”

While the Navy is evaluating if the F-35C is mission effective, the service also has to ensure that the new jet is operationally suitable for the carrier flight deck environment. “We hope to see how it integrates onboard the ship,” Horan said. “Can we maintain it? Can we get the parts? Can we get it airborne? Can we repair it if it has a problem? Those are the kinds of things.”

Related: How The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter May Have Benefited from Soviet Technology »

Indeed, both the F-35C and the Nimitz-class carrier design might need some modifications to operate effectively at sea. The Pentagon conducts operational testing to find and fix any issues that might arise. However, once the F-35C is deemed suitable to enter service with the Navy, it could be a game changer for the service’s carrier air wings. It will take the Navy sometime to learn how to fully exploit the F-35C’s capabilities and to integrate the jet completely into its forces.

“The F-35C brings stealth, enhanced electronic capabilities and a different sustainment model,” Horan said. “Operating this new generation of aircraft out on the aircraft carrier brings a different set of tools, techniques, and procedures, and we’re learning how to integrate them into the battle group.”

But while OT-1 brings the Navy one more step closer towards declaring the Joint Strike Fighter operational with the fleet, there is still work left to be done. The lessons learned during OT-1 will lay the groundwork for future F-35C deployments aboard the Navy’s Nimitz and Ford-class aircraft carriers once the service declares initial operating capability with new jets. However, even then naval aviators will have to continue refining their tactics, techniques, and procedures before the Navy fully realizes the F-35Cs’ potential. It will be a years-long process.

This article originally appeared on The National Interest

Read more from The National Interest

WATCH NEXT:

Todd Rosenberg/AP

A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.

The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.

Read More Show Less
Indiana National Guard

The Indiana National Guard soldier who was killed on Thursday in a training accident at Fort Hood has been identified as 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Andrew Michael St. John, of Greenwood, Indiana.

Read More Show Less

QUETTA, Pakistan/KABUL (Reuters) - The brother of the leader of the Afghan Taliban was among at least four people killed in a bomb blast at a mosque in Pakistan on Friday, two Taliban sources told Reuters, an attack that could affect efforts to end the Afghan war.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Pfc. Hubert D. Delany III)

An Indiana Army National Guard soldier died Thursday night during a training accident at Fort Hood.

According to a Fort Hood press release, the soldier's injuries came from "a tactical vehicle accident in the training area." The name of the soldier is being withheld until the family is notified.

The incident, which occurred at around 10 p.m., will be investigated by the Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, the release said.

Nearly 32% of active-duty military deaths between 2006 and 2018 have been the result of accidents, according to an analysis from the Congressional Research Service.

The Army has had a number of vehicular deaths this year. In June, one West Point cadet was killed and 21 others were injured when a tactical vehicle rolled during training. A vehicle rollover at Fort Irwin, California killed one soldier and injured three others that same month, and in May, a rollover killed one soldier and injured a dozen others at Fort Polk, La.

Two aircraft from the Navy's Blue Angels demonstration squadron touched mid-flight during a Wednesday practice at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Pensacola News Journal first reported.

Read More Show Less