F-35C Lightning II lands aboard the USS Carl Vinson
An F-35C Lightning II lands aboard the USS Carl Vinson off Southern California. Navy photo

The Navy’s new stealth fighter conducted training flights this week from the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of Southern California.

An F-35C Lightning II, the Navy variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, landed on and launched from the San Diego-based carrier during day and night operations, completing another step toward becoming an operationally capable aircraft.

“The training helped us to confidently land and launch an aircraft we’ve never dealt with before,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Alexsis Labrake. “Being the first to ever do it on the Vinson was a pretty cool experience.”

The aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125, based in Lemoore, CA, flew aboard as Carl Vinson conducted carrier qualifications.

The F-35C is the world’s only fifth generation, long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built for aircraft carrier operations. It is scheduled to achieve initial operating capability for the Navy late next year.

The Carl Vinson will likely be the first West Coast-based carrier to deploy with an F-35C squadron after undergoing a scheduled maintenance period in 2019.

The F-35 is being built in three version for the Navy, Marines and Air Force in the most expensive defense project in history. Though frequently the target of critics, the aircraft has decisively beaten attackers in the Air Force’s highly realistic “Red Flag” training exercises.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.