In February, the commander of the U.S. Naval Air Forces proclaimed that the Navy's F-35C Joint Strike Fighter was "ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win" — even though the Navy's own testing data says otherwise.

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A squadron of the U.S. Navy's newest fighters is aircraft carrier-qualified and ready to deploy, the Navy said Thursday. The announcement is a milestone for the Pentagon's trillion-dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter weapons program.

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The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for the F-35, from its first combat airstrike, to its first crash, to the Pentagon ordering the entire F-35 fleet grounded as it inspects a possibly-dangerous aircraft part.

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The Pentagon has ordered its entire fleet of F-35 fighters to be grounded in the wake of a Marine F-35B crash in South Carolina last month.

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An F-35 Lighting II mishap over the Atlantic on Monday caused over $2 million in damage.

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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.

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