The Navy and Marine Corps on Thursday announced the aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the F-35C, achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC).
To declare IOC, the first operational squadron has to be properly manned, trained, and equipped to conduct missions in support of fleet operations. For the F-35C, this entailed having 10 Block 3F F-35C aircraft, their spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs, and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).
The ship supporting the first squadron must also possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications, and certifications while the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation have to demonstrate all procedures, processes, and policies arei n place to sustain aircraft operations.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win. We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in a statement.
This announcement came two months after the first F-35C carrier squadron, the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, completed carrier qualifications aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations certification (Defense Daily, Dec. 14).
That certification required the squadron to be in custody of at least 30 percent of the aircraft, operate the ALIS, finish inspections, and maintain robust maintenance programs.
“We’re very proud of what our Sailors have accomplished in the Joint Strike Fighter community,” Capt. Max McCoy, commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing, said in a statement.
“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment. The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future,” McCoy added.
Separately, Rear Adm. Dale Horan, director of the F-35C Fleet Integration Office, claimed “the F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments.”
“Our focus has now shifted to applying lessons learned from this process to future squadron transitions, and preparing VFA-147 for their first overseas deployment,” Horan added.
Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program, also joined in the congratulations.
“This milestone is the result of unwavering dedication from our joint government and industry team focused on delivering the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world to the men and women of the U.S. Navy,” Ulmer said in a separate statement.
“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,” Ulmer added.
With this IOC, the Navy is the final service to declare its F-35s combat capable after the marine Corps and Air Force. Six F-35 operators have reached IOC, including the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Navy, Israeli Air Force, Italian Air Force, and UK Royal Air Force.