First Operational F-35C Squadron

Sailors direct an F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Ethan J. Soto)

Ready to Win

The “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the Navy’s first operational F-35C Lightning II squadron, completed carrier qualifications Dec. 12 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), meeting the final requirement to obtain their safe-for-flight-operations certification.

The final milestone in VFA-147’s transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet and a major step toward the Navy declaring initial operating capability (IOC) for its F-35 variant by the end of February, the certification ensures a squadron has qualified personnel to implement maintenance and safety programs in support of fleet operations. All transitioning squadrons must complete the certification before conducting flight operations independently.

“The Argonauts’ safe-for-flight-operations certification was earned through the herculean effort of squadron Sailors and is an acknowledgement that they have developed the skills to safely maintain and operate the F-35C Lightning II,” said Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing (CJSFW) Capt. Max McCoy. “We eagerly look forward to declaring IOC and integrating the F-35C into the carrier strike group. This aircraft is a key component to maintaining the U.S. Navy’s dominance anywhere in the world.”

When introducing a new aircraft to the fleet, the associated fleet replacement squadron (FRS) oversees the transitioning unit. The VFA-125 “Rough Raiders” were reactivated in January 2017 as the F-35’s FRS. Since completing their combat deployment last winter, VFA-147 has been working with the Rough Raiders to achieve their safe-for-flight-operations certification. Having received their certification, the Argonauts will be able to operate independently from the Rough Raiders.

Two F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, fly in formation. VFA-147 is the Navy’s first operational F-35C squadron and is based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief MC Shannon E. Renfroe)

 

“Since we returned from deployment last December, our team has been driving toward fully bringing this platform online for the Navy,” VFA-147 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Patrick Corrigan said. “As the Argonauts close out 2018 and the final stages of our safe-for-flight certification, we continue to exhibit the relentless drive required to meet transition goals and milestones. With this certification, we are announcing that we have the right skills, training and people to take this mission and execute it to its fullest potential.”

The certification encompasses areas such as equipment, personnel and programs, including the requirement for the squadron to have physical custody of at least 30 percent of its assigned aircraft. Other requirements include installing and operating management information systems such as the Autonomic Logistics Information System and its accompanying support networks. There is also a requirement for operational F-35C squadrons to maintain robust, on-track maintenance programs, as well as complete various inspections ranging from weapons to safety. Aircrew complete a transition flight syllabus and maintain certain proficiencies in accordance with Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures and Standardization.

“VFA-147 continues to accomplish significant milestones, advancing this program closer to its ultimate goal of integrating the F-35C into the fleet,” McCoy said. “The exceptional performance of the squadron throughout the entire transition process is a testament to the hard-working Sailors who make the U.S. Navy F-35C program a reality. We will succeed, because the professionals in this program will not let it fail. It is evident in all that they do. It is who we are as a Navy.”

Headquartered at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, CJSFW ensures each F-35C squadron is fully combat ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C will be the first fifth-generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier.

Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock is the public affairs officer for Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing.

An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the ÒArgonautsÓ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 prepares to make an arrested landing onboard aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy Photo by MC3 Matthew Granito)