Into The Fold: F-35C Carrier Qualifications Aboard Lincoln
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) completed fleet carrier qualifications (CQ) for the F-35C Lightning II program, marking another milestone for the new aircraft, while underway March 17-21.
Photo credit: US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Mark Logico
Pilots assigned to the "Rough Raiders" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the "Grim Reapers" of VFA 101 accomplished day and night qualifications with 140 traps in anticipation of F-35C operational testing later this year.
Aboard for part of the CQ was Rear Adm. Dale Horan, director of the U.S. Navy F-35C Fleet Integration Office, who was previously embarked aboard Abraham Lincoln during a nine-and-a-half-month deployment in 2002.
"I have tight ties to Lincoln," said Horan. "It's personally interesting for me, but also professionally, it's really neat to see this aircraft out there with other aircraft; we haven't done that before. Previously, all the CQ evolutions have just been F-35s."
The F-35C complements the tactical fighter fleet with a dominant, multirole, next-generation aircraft capable of projecting U.S. power and deterring potential adversaries. The continued integration of the F-35C into the carrier air wing will enable the carrier strike group of the future to be more lethal and survivable in high-end threat environments.
One of the major milestones for this carrier qualification evolution was the operational use of the F-35C's foldable-wing feature. This feature is a critical component of the integration of F-35Cs with F/A-18C Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, facilitating the movement of the different platforms on the flight deck and rehearsing for operating as part of a full air wing aboard the carrier.
"My original platform is the Hornet, which I've flown for the past three years," said Lt. Nick Rezendes, a pilot attached to VFA 101, who qualified on the F-35C during this CQ. "I wanted to switch to flying the Navy's newest aircraft, and now that I have, I wouldn't mind sticking with it for the rest of my career."