USN declares F-35C deployable

The U.S. Navy declared the carrier-launched version of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter ready to deploy Thursday, a major milestone nearly two decades in the making, according to a press release from U.S. Naval Air Forces.

Ten Block 3F F-35Cs from Strike Fighter Squadron 147 completed carrier qualifications aboard the Carl Vinson and received safe-for-flight operations certification, the release said, leading the Navy to declare initial operating capability. The announcement was in line with its previously announced intention to declare IOC in February 2019, which was spelled out in a 2013 report to Congress.

The declaration means the plane can deploy in some reduced capacity, but the jet has yet to reach full operational capability.

The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Naval Air Forces head Vice Adm, DeWolfe Miller said in the release. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”

In order to achieve IOC, the Navy had to achieve a number of milestones: VFA-147 had to be certified as properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct missions, including having the 10 aircraft, spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS), the release said.