USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) accomplished its first arrested landing of an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, Oct. 2.
The arrested landing is part of the second phase of at-sea Developmental Testing (DT-II) for the F-35C, which is expected to last two weeks. These test phases ensure aircraft meet specifications and identify mission critical issues sufficiently early in the test phase to deliver fully capable aircraft in time for their scheduled initial operating capability.
The purpose of DT-II is to test the suitability and integration of the F-35C in an at-sea environment. The F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force will run through a series of tests designed to increase the aircraft’s operability at sea. The Ike crew partnered with the Patuxent River ITF test team to ensure the ship was prepared to receive the aircraft.
“We brought a team from the Eisenhower to Patuxent River about two months ago,” said Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 Navy test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts. “We have a steam catapult built into our runway. We took some steps with the crew here to bring them up to speed by training them on the F-35 to get them a little bit more familiar with our aircraft.”
The F-35C will perform a variety of operational maneuvers during DT-II while simulating maintenance operations and conducting general maintenance and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment.
Following the analysis of DT-II test data, the team will conduct a thorough assessment of the F-35C’s performance in the shipboard environment before advising the Navy on any adjustments necessary to ensure the fifth-generation fighter is ready to meet its scheduled IOC in 2018.
“The goal of this test phase is to find out how we can expand the envelope in which this aircraft works in an effective and safe fashion,” Kitts said. “We have a huge team working on this, and I know that each time I get in this aircraft it’s the culmination of a lot of people’s hard work.”
The F-35C – the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ carrier-suitable variant — combines unprecedented at-sea stealth with fighter speed and agility, fused targeting, cutting-edge avionics, advanced jamming, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. With a broad wingspan, reinforced landing gear, ruggedized structures and durable coatings, the F-35C will stand up to harsh shipboard conditions. The avionics also equip the pilot with real-time, spherical access to battlespace information and commanders at sea-in the air and on the ground-with an instantaneous, high-fidelity single picture view of ongoing operations.
“The Ike crew is very interested,” Kitts said. “The Sailors are really curious about the F-35C and a lot of them have really great questions and we encourage them to ask. These Sailors are who we’re working for to get this aircraft ready to be in the fleet so they can use it.”
By 2025, the Navy’s aircraft carrier-based air wings will consist of a mix of F-35C, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft, E-2D Hawkeye battle management and control aircraft, MH-60R/S helicopters and Carrier Onboard Delivery logistics aircraft. The continued success of F-35 Lightning II shipboard operations aid the development of the Navy’s next generation fighter and reinforce Navy-industry partnership goals to deliver the operational aircraft to the fleet in 2018.