The US Navy (USN) received its first Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter training aircraft at Eglin AFB, Florida, on 22 June.
The stealthy carrier-based aircraft will be assigned to the service’s Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA-101) Grim Reapers and will fly alongside US Air Force (USAF) and US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35 training units assigned to the air force’s 33rd Fighter Wing. VFA 101 will serve as a fleet replacement squadron which will train aircrew and maintenance personnel from both the USN and USMC to fly and repair the F-35C
The USN is the last of the US military services to receive the F-35, and many observers say the navy’s commitment to the tri-service jet is lukewarm at best. However, publicly the USN insists that it is behind the programme.
“For me the F-35C is really a key part of our future,” chief of naval operations Adm Jonathan Greenert told the Senate appropriations sub-committee on defense earlier in the month. “It provides a unique and essential set of capabilities for our air wing and for our carrier strike group, effectively for the fleet.”
The F-35C is expected to become operational with the USN in late 2018 or early 2019.