An F-35C Lightning II from the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA 125 prepares to launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/U.S. Navy
Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Navy F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters has been integrated into carrier air wing training flight operations for the first time with aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 7 on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
The F-35C naval variant has been doing testing since 2014, but this is the first time it has flown with an operational wing, the Navy announced on Tuesday. It performed with F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growlers and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes. Previous tests had the plane operating separately.
The tests demonstrated "how the airplane handles on the aircraft carrier, how we do maintenance, how we sustain it while we're at sea. And then how it integrates with the ship, how it interoperates with communications, data links, other aircraft, and then how we conduct the mission and tie into the other aircraft that are conducting that mission and how effective they are when they do it," Rear Adm. Dale Horan, director of Joint Strike Fighter Integration for the Navy, told reporters aboard the Lincoln during the test.
The F-35Cs came from both Strike Fighter Squadron VFA 125 and VFA 147 based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
The F-35C was originally projected to reach operations combat status off of aircraft carriers by August 2018, but the goal has been delayed. Horan said that it will more likely meet it's minimal qualifications by early next year.
"We are moving in that direction and we will see. We'll get together after this and see how it went and see if we think things are lining up and whether we can meet that. If we can't, we'll make a decision and change that schedule," Horn said.
"Right now it seems that we're moving in that direction," he said.