Navy Declares F-35C Mission Ready

An F-35C Lightning II attached to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 completes a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (U.S. Navy photo by MC Chief Shannon E. Renfroe)

The Navy announced the F-35C Lightning II had achieved initial operational capability (IOC) Feb. 28. This announcement came shortly after the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 completed carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), making them the Navy’s first operational F-35C squadron. 

The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” said Commander, Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III. “With its cutting-edge stealth technology, we have an incredible weapon in our arsenal that, up until now, has never before been available from the sea. Our F-35Cs are ready to deploy alongside our combat-proven Super Hornets, ushering in the future of carrier aviation.”

A significant milestone on the road to achieving full warfighting capability for the F-35C, declaring IOC means that the first operational squadron is properly manned, trained and equipped with qualified personnel to implement autonomous maintenance and safety programs to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations.

“We’re extremely proud of what our Sailors have accomplished in the F-35C community,” said Capt. Max McCoy, Commodore, Joint Strike Fighter Wing (CJSFW). “Their commitment to this mission delivered fifth-generation capability to the carrier air wing, making us more lethal and more survivable than ever. We shall continue to refine ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment.”

VFA-147, along with CJSFW and VFA-125—the F-35C fleet replacement squadron—are based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California. All fleet operations will be single-sited at NAS Lemoore making it the focal point for Navy F-35Cs and the only air station where both fourth- and fifth-generation squadrons are co-located.

First Deployment Scheduled for 2021

“The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of Naval Aviation, using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them with lethal results in all contested environments,” said Rear Adm. Dale Horan, Director, F-35C Fleet Integration Office. “This accomplishment represents years of hard work on the part of the F-35 Program Office and Naval Aviation Enterprise. Our focus has now shifted to applying lessons learned from this process to future squadron transitions, and preparing VFA-147 for their first scheduled deployment in 2021.”

The mission-ready F-35C is the latest addition to the carrier air wing.

“While IOC declaration is a big milestone for the F-35C, it is, more importantly, one step closer for the Navy as we drive toward our ultimate goal of fully integrating the F-35C in the fleet,” Miller said. “Our sights are set on the first operational deployment for this tremendous asset. However, that is not an overnight accomplishment. Bringing the F-35C to our carrier team is the result of coordination and integration on all levels. The addition of this asset brings an entirely new suite of capabilities to the fight, one in which the Navy team will be well-situated to fly, fight and win.”

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