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US Navy declares IOC for F-35C

01 March 2019
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Three F-35C aircraft attached to the ‘Argonauts’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the ‘Rough Raiders’ of VFA 125, and the ‘Grim Reapers’ of VFA 101 fly over Eglin Air Force Base in Florida ahead of the declaration of IOC on 28 February. Source: US Navy

The US Navy (USN) has declared initial operating capability (IOC) for its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, the service announced on 28 February.

The declaration came with the joint announcement by the Commander, Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller, and the US Marine Corps (USMC) Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Lieutenant General Steven R Rudder, that the aircraft carrier variant F-35C has met all the requirements needed for IOC.

As noted by the USN, IOC for the two services that will operate the F-35C is defined by the first operational squadron being properly manned, trained, and equipped. This includes having 10 Block 3F (full combat capable) F-35C aircraft with spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programmes, and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).

In addition to the aircraft, the ship that will field the first operational squadron must also possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications, and certifications, while the Joint Program Office, industry, and Naval Air Systems Command must demonstrate that all procedures, processes, and policies are in place to sustain F-35C operations..

The declaration of IOC comes after the Department of the Navy's first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 'Argonauts', completed aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and received Safe-For-Flight Operations certification.

Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore in California is the home base for the USN's Joint Strike Fighter Wing, USN F-35C fleet squadrons, and VFA 125 'Rough Raiders' Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), which trains USN and USMC pilots. The USN is set to receive 273 CV F-35Cs over the life of the programme, with the USMC to receive 67.

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