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    Unmatched Naval Air Power: The F-35C Dominates the Seas

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    An F-35C prepares to land on the flight deck of USS George Washington.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The F-35C Lightning II, the U.S. Navy’s stealth fighter designed for carrier operations, continues to bolster naval air superiority amidst modern challenges and significant milestones in military aviation history.

    F-35C lands aboard USS Carl Vinson” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As the carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the F-35C stands as a testament to more than a century of naval aviation evolution, from the Vought VE-7 biplane to the cutting-edge technologies of today’s aircraft carriers.

    F-35C Lightning II aircraft are tested aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Featuring a wider wingspan to control low speeds during takeoff and landing, foldable wingtips for carrier space efficiency, and a robust landing gear, the F-35C is engineered for operations aboard the U.S. Navy’s fleet of Nimitz- and Ford-class supercarriers. Its design allows it to carry approximately 20,000 pounds of internal fuel, granting it a range greater than 1,200 nautical miles – a necessary trait for the vast over-ocean operations that define modern naval engagements.

    An F-35C Lightning II makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The aircraft’s impressive capabilities are underscored by a recent contract worth more than $32 million awarded to Lockheed Martin for the production of nine Lot 17 F-35C aircraft, as reported by Air Force Technology.

    An F-35C Lightning II flies over the Bay of Bengal during Maritime Partnership Exercise 2021.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This contract not only reflects the Navy’s commitment to integrating more F-35Cs into their forces but also the strategic importance of maintaining air superiority.

    Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    In addition to its superior design for carrier operations, the F-35C is lauded for its advanced and comprehensive sensor suite, making it the only fifth-generation aircraft built specifically for carrier deployment.

    Lockheed Martin F-35 ‘Lightning II’” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Its stealth capabilities, coupled with a sensor suite that includes Active Electronically Scanned Arrays (AESA) radar and Electro Optical Targeting System (EOTS), provides pilots with unmatched situational awareness.

    Australia F-35s leave in historic launch” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Despite the F-35 program’s triumphs, it faces production delays due to the pending TR-3 software update, essential for enhancing the jet’s capabilities.

    F-35 Lightning II completes Edwards testing” by MultiplyLeadership is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    With more than 1,000 F-35s produced by Lockheed Martin and active global orders around 3,500, resolving the update issue is critical as new nations express interest in joining the F-35 family.

    F-35C Lightning II” by Chad Horwedel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The F-35C also serves as a force multiplier, able to operate as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance asset while sharing information with networked ground, sea, and air assets. This interconnectivity not only streamlines mission execution but also ensures the safety of service members.

    F-35C Lightning II” by Chad Horwedel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    In terms of firepower, the F-35C can carry more than 5,000 pounds of internal weapons or over 18,000 pounds of combined internal and external weapons, allowing the Navy to operate in stealth or increase lethality when airspace is permissive.

    Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II (BuNo 169601) (with VMFA-314 at Miramar NAS) and McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18A-15-MC Hornet (F/A-18A++) (BuNo 162442)” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Naval Air Station Lemoore is home to the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing, and the U.S. Marine Corps is also acquiring F-35Cs along with their F-35Bs, demonstrating the cross-service utilization of this formidable aircraft.

    USS CARL VINSON F-35C FLIGHT OPERATIONS” by SurfaceWarriors is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The F-35C’s production involves a global network of suppliers, with Lockheed Martin leading the F-35 industry team alongside Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Pratt & Whitney.

    An F-35C Lightning II is tested aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.” by LockheedMartin19 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Looking back at the history of carrier-based aviation, the USS Langley launched the first aircraft from a ship with an installed flight deck on October 17, 1922.

    Test Planes Vought VE-7” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    While historical aircraft like the Vought VE-7 signify the early days of naval air combat, the F-35C embodies the apex of modern military aviation technology, equipped for both present challenges and future warfare that could not have been imagined in the era of the VE-7. As the Navy continues its tradition of air superiority, the F-35C remains a central piece in the complex puzzle of global security and military strategy.

    Relevant articles:
    The Navy’s F-35C Stealth Fighter Something No Nation Can Match, The National Interest
    F-35: The Stealth Fighter No Nation Can Match, The National Interest
    Everything You Need to Know about the F-35C, f35.com
    Then & Now: How Does The US Navy’s First Fighter Compare With The F-35?, Simple Flying

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