The US Navy received its first Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter training aircraft at Eglin AFB, Florida, on 22 June.
The stealth 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 and US Marine Corps 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 navy is the last of the US military services to receive the F-35, and many observers say its commitment to the tri-service jet is lukewarm at best. However, the USN publicly insists that it is behind the programme.
"For me, the F-35C is really a key part of our future," chief of naval operation Adm Jonathan Greenert told the Senate appropriations subcommittee 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 be operational with the USN in late 2018 or early 2019.