AT SEA –
In January 2018, VFA-147 transitioned from the F/A-18 to the F-35C, making them the first operational F-35C squadron in the U.S. Navy.
Fifth-generation F-35C and CMV-22B Osprey joined a combination of fourth-generation platforms within the Vinson Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 to bring unprecedented capabilities as the “Air Wing of the Future.”
“We took…the CMV-22 and the F-35 on the most capable aircraft carrier that the Navy’s ever put forward,” said Capt. P. Scott Miller, Commanding Officer, USS Carl Vinson.
The F-35C was designed with the entire battlespace in mind, bringing transformational capability to the U.S. and its allies. Missions traditionally performed by specialized aircraft—including air-to-air combat, air-to-ground strikes, electronic attack, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance—can now be executed by a squadron of F-35s.
For the first time in Naval Aviation history, radar-evading aircraft stealth capability was on the carrier deck, giving pilots unmatched power to avoid detection and operate in contested environments. The F-35C carrier variant sets new standards in weapon system integration, lethality, maintainability, combat radius and payload that bring true multi-mission power projection capability from the sea.
“The F-35 Charlie brought us a rugged, low-observable platform, with some advanced sensor suites that were able to integrate across a strike group,” said Capt. Tommy Locke, Commander, CVW-2. “It increased our lethality and survivability for the Carrier Strike Group.”
According to Locke, the F-35C was like any other fixed-wing aircraft on carriers, flying very similarly. Integrating the fighter with its own version of the Navy’s Precision Landing Mode (PLM), combined with Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) was a huge success story. PLM revolutionizes the Navy’s ability to land on carriers and eliminates the planning previously required to safely do so in challenging environments.
“We used to sit in the Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) at night trying to figure out how to get people aboard, manage the fuel, to ensure we had enough gas to get guys multiple looks,” Locke said. “I’m happy to say it was a pretty boring time in CATCC 99 percent of the time.”
Carrying almost 20,000 pounds of internal fuel with a range of more than 1,200 nautical miles, the F-35C can fly with more than 5,000 pounds of internal weapons and an additional 13,000 pounds of external weapons. The aircraft also brings to the force the ability to collect, analyze and share data, a critical asset in the battlespace.
Integration of the fifth-generation aircraft and mutual support between the air wing and rest of the ship was central to the success of carrier operations.
“I think one of our biggest accomplishments was we proved we were able to sustain, maintain and operate these new aircraft aboard the most agile, survivable and lethal airfields in the world—nuclear powered aircraft carrier Carl Vinson,” Locke said.