Vinson Conducts Flight Deck Cert with First Operational F-35C Squadron

By Lt. Cmdr. Miranda Williams

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) completed several certifications Sept. 17, including flight deck certification (FDC) and carrier air traffic control center (CATCC) certification, after nearly a week of flight deck operations designed to ready the carrier for future operations.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the “Stingers” of VFA-113, flies over Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Haydn N. Smith)

The underway also marked the first time Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and Vinson, both part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, fully integrated and operated together since the addition of the F-35C Lightning II.

“The flight deck certification is one of many ways the Navy ensures the safety and readiness of our equipment and personnel,” said Rear Adm. Timothy J. Kott, commander, CSG-1. “The fact that Vinson was able to safely and successfully complete the flight deck certification while operating with the Navy’s first operational F-35 squadron is an exciting bonus.”

FDC is required for the carrier to embark aircraft, the primary weapons system for the platform, and is designed to provide operational continuity and proficiency training for carrier crews. During FDC, the carrier is evaluated on its ability to launch and recover aircraft in a safe manner in both day and night time operations.

A C-2A Greyhound, attached to the “Providers” of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron (VRC) 30, approaches for landing. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Katlyn E. Huska)

Vinson, along with CVW-2 squadrons, also achieved certification in Precision Approach Landing Systems (PALS), Joint Precision Approach Landing Systems (JPALS) and carrier qualifications for the six fixed-wing squadrons.

“These certifications ensure that Vinson meets the standards, and, in our case, we went above and beyond the certification requirements,” said Capt. Matthew Paradise, Vinson’s Commanding Officer. “I’m not surprised we did so well because every day the teamwork I saw demonstrated by the ship’s crew and the air wing was fantastic. Their technical expertise, attention to detail and hard work resulted in our successful completion of certifications.”

Prior to integrated operations with the air wing, Vinson underwent a 17-month maintenance availability to receive major upgrades in support of fifth-generation aircraft, making Vinson the first aircraft carrier equipped to support both the F-35C Lightning II and CMV-22 Osprey. Upgrades included enhanced jet blast deflectors able to take the increased heat generated by the F-35C and the addition of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), the new computer network that supports the unique maintenance and tactical operations functions of the advanced aircraft.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to the “Bounty Hunters” of VFA-2, prepares to land aboard Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Katlyn E. Huska)

With its recent modifications, no other weapons system has the responsiveness, endurance, multi-dimensional might, inherent battlespace awareness or command and control capabilities of the Vinson and CVW-2.

Other components of the air wing include three Navy Strike Fighter Squadrons that fly the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, one Electronic Attack Squadron that operates the EA-18G Growler, Airborne Command & Control Squadron that operates the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, one Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron and one Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron.

An E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, attached to the “Black Eagles” of Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW) 113, lands on the flight deck of Carl Vinson (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Haydn N. Smith)

Through multiplatform integration, CVW-2 will provide fleet commanders the ability to achieve the advantage across multiple domains: air, land, sea and electromagnetic.

Integration between the air wing and ship’s company is crucial to the everyday success of carrier operations. These flight operations take detailed coordination between ship’s company and the air wing squadrons, and flight deck certification was an opportunity to build that relationship.

“In the carrier environment, teamwork is everything,” said Capt. Matt Thrasher, commander, CVW-2. “Our Sailors and aircrew are focused on the task at hand and the path forward to deployment. Our success with the Vinson team is a direct result of the dedication, training and deployment-ready mentality we embrace daily.”

An F-35C lands on the flight deck of Carl Vinson during flight deck certification. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Katlyn E. Huska)

With the flight deck and air traffic control center now fully qualified, Vinson is eligible to perform carrier qualifications for new pilots and other missions to support the fleet.

Next, Vinson will complete a series of additional “work ups” and certifications in preparation for future operational tasking.

In accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols, all embarked personnel completed restriction of movement or COVID-19 testing, as required, prior to the ship’s underway period.

Lt. Cmdr. Miranda Williams is the Public Affairs Officer for USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).  

Vinson Begins Operational Training Cycle, Changes Homeport

Sailors assigned to CVN-70 man the rails on the flight deck of the ship when Vinson departed Naval Base Kitsap–Bremerton. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Nicholas R. Carter)

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) arrived at Naval Air Station North Island, California, on Sept. 2, concluding the ship’s homeport shift from Bremerton, Washington to San Diego, California.

Vinson departed Bremerton on Aug. 23 to commence sea trials as the final phase in completing a 17-month docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. Upon the conclusion of DPIA, which began Feb. 28, 2019, Vinson returned to the fleet to begin her operational training cycle.

The DPIA included a complete restoration and system retrofit to accommodate F-35C Lightning II mission capabilities, as well as upgrades to combat systems, electrical systems and crew living spaces, and maintenance on the ship’s hull, rudders and shafts.

“I am proud of all of the hard work and dedication shown by the entire crew throughout the DPIA—and particularly with the added challenges we faced during this pandemic,” said Capt. Matthew Paradise, Vinson’s Commanding Officer. “Also, a huge thank you to our family and friends; because our success was, in large part, due to their unwavering support. We just couldn’t have done this without them.” Prior to its departure, Vinson conducted extensive COVID-19 prevention measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew while at sea, and to prevent potential spread to their families and the community upon their return to port. Those measures included: restriction of movement for all personnel for 14 days prior to embarking the ship, mandatory face coverings, continued cleaning and disinfecting throughout common areas, routine COVID-19 testing and social distancing. — Lt. Cmdr. Miranda Williams