The F-35 Integrated Test Force has completed the third and final shipboard developmental test phase for the F-35C one week earlier than scheduled.

The USS George Washington welcomed the F-35Cs and a team of test pilots and engineers aboard to complete the third round of developmental testing earlier in the month.

Sylvia Pierson, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office/Naval Variants Public Affairs Officer said:

“The full complement of F-35 sensors delivers a spherical view of the battlespace that equips the pilot, the commander at sea, and the commander on the ground with information from many sources and enables the carrier strike group and joint force to make critical decisions based upon that information. The aircraft combines this sensing capability with the Navy’s first stealth at-sea to see adversaries first, take decisive action, and come home safely. Overall, this fusion of information that is shared by the pilot with those on the ground and on the sea is a game-changer.

We test to make sure the aircraft meets all the specifications, and we test in the at-sea environment across the spectrum of operations the aircraft will be called upon to perform. When the aircraft is declared ready for combat operations and a squadron takes it on deployment, the warfighter can rest assured that every scenario in which they could possibly fly has already been tested by the Pax River Integrated Test Force.

Somebody may launch with all their weapons but they may land asymmetrical. We are testing for symmetric and asymmetric loads. We test different weights, in terms of fuel and weapons. We test in crosswind conditions and evaluate the aircraft with regard to the movement of air around the island. We conduct a lot of testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., but you can’t replicate the carrier environment.

Prior to DT-I, the first developmental test phase at sea, the team determined that the tailhook required a redesign. Together they identified the problem, designed and tested a solution, and it worked. The aircraft conducted 124 catapult launches, 124 arrested landings, experienced no unintentional bolters, and was a three-wire machine. We had such confidence in the aircraft that we even conducted night operations for the first time during DT-I since the F-4 era. Ultimately, that’s what we are here to do with the aircraft. The manufacturer builds the aircraft, and the Navy, as a customer, has to go test drive it, to make sure that it does everything that it is supposed to do.”

According to the US Navy:

“The highly diverse cadre of technicians, maintainers, engineers, logisticians, support staff, and test pilots assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 showcased their trademark test efficiency and effectiveness by completing 100 percent of the required DT-III test points during 41 flights logging 39.7 flight hours and featuring 121 catapults, 70 touch and go landings, 1 bolter, and 121 arrestments.

The team also completed their previous two shipboard detachments early – DT-I aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in 2014 ended three days early and DT-II aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in 2015 ended six days early.

The Salty Dogs returned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River on Aug. 26.”

The testing is the final at-sea stage in preparation of the initial operational capability (IOC) slated for 2018.

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Harry bulpit

I know this has probably been asked a hundred times and it’s pretty controversial, but why didn’t we order the C variant? I see no benefit to the B model it more expensive, has less rang, less of a weapons load and I believe it’s even slower. I would understand if we used a small carrier but the new QE class are big enough for cat and trap. And while it may coast more, the cheaper price of the C model and probable even the less fuel it would use as it doesn’t need to carry a gigantic fan around… Read more »


you are so right but this is what we get when politicians get involved in designing( I use the term loosely) our military kit for our men and women to go out to fight with. Also a certain political party made sure the UK got saddled with an aircraft that is nothing more than a glorified bomb truck.

jon livesey

Why don’t you use Google to find the history of the decision. It’s all out there.


Money Harry….. money. A couple billion to add in cats & traps would just have been the start of it. You then need a lot more crew to maintain these systems. The planes themselves require more tlc due to the massive stresses put on them Pilots require many more training hours with cats & traps. It all came down to money. Personally I think the UK went with the right choice. The ‘B’ variant will still be a terrific strike fighter with a better combat radius than the Super Hornet & almost the same as the ‘Rafale-M’. It’s range and… Read more »


the us navy agreed to underwrite the cost of putting cat and trap on the british carriers so they could operate their jets from our carriers – somehow they declined a rather generous offer……crazy


#1, I understand the point but we really need to get over this now…how many times can we have the same argument? We have what we have going forward, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the 35b version flying from the new carriers

D Lindley

It all came down to politics. To protect the F35 program LM had meet minimum order numbers for each variant. If the UK had switch back to its original decision to by the F35-C that would have left just USMC purchasing the F35-B insufficient numbers to justify the F35-B. With the loss in viability of this variant the whole F35 program would of collapsed such is the way LM stitch the program together and under the srutiny of the JPO as well. LM pressured UK industry to lobby governent to proceed with F35-B procurement to avoid industrial penalties go figure.… Read more »