The Navy's F-35C stealth fighters are officially ready to wage war from the decks of US aircraft carriers

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. RenfroeThree F-35C Lightning II aircraft.
  • The US Navy declared on Thursday that its carrier-capable F-35 variant has achieved initial operational capability.
  • “The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of naval air forces, said in a statement.
  • With this declaration, all three F-35 variants for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are officially combat-ready.

The Navy has declared its carrier-capable F-35Cs “ready for combat,” a major milestone for the fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The Navy’s version of the F-35 has achieved initial operational capability (IOC), the Navy said on Thursday.

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

This news follows an earlier announcement by the Navy in December that the service’s first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, had completed the critical aircraft-carrier qualifications aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

“The F-35C will revolutionise 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,” Rear Adm. Dale Horan, the director of the US Navy F-35C Fleet Integration Office, said in a statement.

With Thursday’s IOC declaration, which follows decades of testing and development, the Navy has joined the Marine Corps and Air Force, both of which have already declared their F-35 variants combat-ready. The Marine Corps was the first service to take the F-35 into combat.

Read more: The US F-35 has entered combat for the first time, conducting its first airstrike against the Taliban in Afghanistan

“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 US Navy,” Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 Program, said in statement, CNBC reported.

Lockheed Martin developed the A, B, and C variants of the F-35 for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, respectively, with each version featuring different combat capabilities.

Recognised as America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 stealth fighter has faced constant criticism and numerous developmental setbacks, but now all three variants are officially ready to wage war.

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