The Department of the Navy has declared that the aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II, met all requirements and achieved initial operational capability (IOC). The Navy joins the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force as the final U.S. service to declare their F-35s mission ready and combat capable. Three more F-35 operators are also IOC: Israeli Air Force, Italian Air Force, and the United Kingdom Royal Air Force.
Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, said, “We congratulate the Department of the Navy on achieving Initial Operational Capability with its fleet of F-35Cs. As we celebrate this achievement demonstrating the progress of the F-35 program, we’re also setting our sights forward to ensure the U.S. Navy is ready for its first F-35C deployment.”
The announcement from the Commander, Naval Air Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation came 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.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat, and ready to win,” said Commander Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller.
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) of 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 for 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 to the F-35C. The Marine Corps plans to transition four F-35C squadrons that will be assigned to carrier air wings for deployments.
Capt. Max McCoy, commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing. “Their commitment to mission delivered fifth-generation capability to the carrier air wing, making us more combat effective than ever before. We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment.”