An F-35C landed on an aircraft carrier for the first time Monday, advancing the flight testing of the Navy’s version of the strike fighter. Aircraft CF-03 landed aboard the USS Nimitz, (CVN 68) off San Diego, Calif., at 12:18 p.m. local time. The landing marks the start of a two-week series of catapult takeoffs and arrested landings, simulated maintenance work, and other shipboard handling activities with two F-35CS aboard the Nimitz. The Integrated Test Force from NAS Patuxent River, Md., will collect data about the F-35C in the shipboard environment and report on any adjustments needed to the aircraft or ship. The Navy expects to declare initial operational capability with the F-35C in 2018. The carrier variant differs from the Air Force F-35A in that it has larger wings and control surfaces, strengthened landing gear for carrier operations, and more range. By 2025, the standard carrier air wing will include EA-18 Growler electronic warfare jets, F/A-18E/F SuperHornet strike fighters, F-35C Lightning II strike fighters, E-2D Hawkeye air battle control aircraft, MH-60R/S helicopters, and carrier onboard delivery logistics aircraft. The Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS fighter-size remotely piloted aircraft, may also feature in one or two carrier air wings by then. (Watch the landing here.)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.