F-35C Carrier Variant Is At Sea – Finally!

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With US Navy test pilot Commander Tony Wilson at the controls, an F-35C Lightning II of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) lined up on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off the California coast early Monday afternoon and swooped in to make the first arrested carrier landing of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) carrier variant.

It was the first of many launch-and-recovery cycles expected to be carried out over the next two weeks, part of the type’s initial at-sea Developmental Testing I (DT-I) period.

Two VX-23 F-35Cs flew cross-country from their base at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland to carry out the tests aboard the Nimitz. The aircraft, the Navy said, will perform a variety of operational maneuvers, including catapult takeoffs and arrested landings. Flight test operations will also include general maintenance and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment, as well as simulated maintenance operations.

CF-03, the aircraft that performed the first landing aboard the Nimitz, was also the first F-35C fitted with a redesigned production tailhook. Reliability problems discovered in 2012 were traced back to the hook itself, and Lockheed Martin and Navy engineers reshaped the hook point and made other adjustments. Tests of the redesigned hook were completed in January at Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, New Jersey.

The F-35C is one of three JSF variants being built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force, Navy and Marines, and a host of foreign air forces. Years of testing for the carrier variant still lie ahead, with the aim of becoming operational in 2018.

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F-35C CF-03 turns into the landing pattern to come aboard USS Nimitz. (est aboard Nimitz. (US Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe)

F-35C CF-03 turns into the landing pattern to come aboard USS Nimitz. (US Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe)

F-35C CF-03 comes aboard the carrier. (US Navy photo by MC2 Antonio Turretto Ramos)

F-35C CF-03 comes aboard the carrier. (US Navy photo by MC2 Antonio Turretto Ramos)

CF-03 grabs the No. 2 wire. (US Navy photo by MC1 Class Brett Cote)

CF-03 grabs the No. 2 wire. (US Navy photo by MC1 Class Brett Cote)

CF-03 comes to a brief halt aboard Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC1 Brett Cote)

CF-03 comes to a brief halt before releasing the wire. (US Navy photo by MC1 Brett Cote)

Up in the Nimitz' island superstructure, spectators crowd Vulture's Row to get a view as CF-03 rolls out. (US Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe)

Up in the Nimitz’ island superstructure, spectators crowd Vulture’s Row to get a view as CF-03 rolls out. (US Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe)

F-35C CF-05 comes around to line up on the Nimitz. (US Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe)

F-35C CF-05 comes around to line up on the Nimitz. (US Navy photo courtesy Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe)

CF-05 rolls briefly on the flight deck during touch-and-go landings on the Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC1 Brett Cote)

CF-05 rolls briefly on the flight deck during touch-and-go landings on the Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC1 Brett Cote)

CF-05 rises again during touch-and-go landings. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli Buguey)

CF-05 rises again during touch-and-go landings. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli Buguey)

Landing signal officers (LSOs) watch as CF-05 comes aboard the Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC3 Siobhana McEwen)

Landing signal officers (LSOs) watch as CF-05 comes aboard the Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC3 Siobhana McEwen)

F-35C CF-03 an instant before snagging an arresting wire aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) Nov. 3 during tests off the California coast. (US Navy photo by MC3 Kelly Agee)

F-35C CF-05 an instant before snagging an arresting wire aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) Nov. 3 during tests off the California coast. (US Navy photo by MC3 Kelly Agee)

Closeup of the redesigned tailhook just before grabbing the wire.

Closeup of the redesigned tailhook just before grabbing the wire.

Trap! CF-05 grabs the wire. (US Navy photo by MC1 Brett Cote)

Trap! CF-05 grabs the wire. (US Navy photo by MC1 Brett Cote)

The wire goes slack as the F-35C's tailhook releases its hold. (US Navy photo by MC3 Kelly Agee)

The wire goes slack as the CF-05’s tailhook releases its hold. (US Navy photo by MC3 Kelly Agee)

It's a good day to be an F-35C pilot. (US Navy photo by MC3 Aiyana Paschal)

It’s a good day to be an F-35C pilot. (US Navy photo by MC3 Aiyana Paschal)

Both VX-23 F-35Cs parked aboard Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC2 Antonio Turretto Ramos)

Both VX-23 F-35Cs parked aboard Nimitz. (US Navy photo by MC2 Antonio Turretto Ramos)

 

 

 

Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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