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Navy Achieves New F-35 Fighter Jet Milestone on USS Carl Vinson

An F-35C performs flight operations aboard the USS Carl Vinson, December 7, 2018 (U.S. Navy/Seaman Apprentice Ethan Soto)
An F-35C performs flight operations aboard the USS Carl Vinson, December 7, 2018 (U.S. Navy/Seaman Apprentice Ethan Soto)

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed a critical milestone aboard the USS Carl Vinson Wednesday as the Navy works to reach initial operating capability (IOC) next year for the stealth jet.

The Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 "Argonauts" completed carrier qualifications Wednesday, a final requirement for the commander of Joint Strike Fighter Wing (CJSFW) to endorse that the squadron has met its safe-for-flight operations certification, the Navy said in a release.

"The safe-for-flight operations certification (SFFOC) is the final step for VFA-147's transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet to the F-35C Lightning II," the release said.

"This process ensures a squadron is manned with qualified personnel to implement maintenance and safety programs in support of fleet operations. All transitioning squadrons are required to complete this certification prior to independently conducting flight operations," it said.

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"As the Argonauts close out 2018 and the final stages of our safe-for-flight certification, we continue to exhibit the relentless drive required to meet transition goals and milestones," said Cmdr. Patrick Corrigan, commanding officer of VFA-147. "With this certification, we are announcing that we have the right skills, training and people to take this mission and execute it, to its fullest potential."

VFA-147's SFFOC requires equipment, personnel and programs to be in check. "Not least among them is the requirement for the squadron to be in the physical custody of at least 30 percent of the assigned aircraft," the release stated.

Other requirements include the complete installation of networks and equipment to run and gather information from the jet, such as the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). Personnel must maintain the highest standards of weapons and safety inspections, as well as maintenance procedures, among other proficiencies.

"The Argonauts' safe-for-flight operations certification was earned through the Herculean effort of squadron sailors and is an acknowledgment that they have developed the skills to safely maintain and operate the F-35C Lightning II," said CJSFW Capt. Max McCoy.

"We eagerly look forward to declaring IOC and integrating the F-35C into the carrier strike group. This aircraft is a key component to maintaining the U.S. Navy's dominance anywhere in the world," he said.

VFA-147 is slated to become the Navy's first operational F-35C squadron. The service hopes to declare the F-35C IOC ready in February, with VFA-147's first deployment scheduled aboard the Vinson in 2021.

Naval Air Station Lemoore is home to Strike Fighter Squadron 147, as well as Strike Fighter Squadron 125, a replacement squadron.

The latest news of the F-35C comes as the service anticipates a deactivation of its F-35 squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and plans to move operations to NAS Lemoore, centralizing its Joint Strike Fighter operations out west.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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