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US Navy Carrier Strike Group Deploying With F-35C for First Time


  • A Navy carrier strike group is deploying with F-35Cs for the first time, the Navy said Monday
  • The Carl Vinson carrier strike group set sail “in support of global maritime security operations.”
  • The carrier air wing consists of both fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft.

A US Navy carrier strike group deployed Monday, the Navy said in a press release, revealing that the carrier is deploying with the service’s most advanced fighter jets.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson departed San Diego carrying the Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron, the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147. The deployment is a first for the carrier-based variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The Carl Vinson carrier strike group’s Carrier Air Wing 2 is the Navy’s first integrated air wing including both the fourth-generation F/A-18 Super Hornets and the newer F-35Cs to deploy overseas.

Air wing commander Capt. Tommy Locke said in a Navy press statement that the mixture of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets provide “unprecedented lethality and survivability and ensuring the Navy team can operate and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”

Unlike the Air Force’s F-35A and the Marine Corps F-35B, the latter of which is better suited to fighting from amphibious assault ships, the C variant is designed to operate aboard US Navy carriers. This jet can carry more fuel and is built for catapult launches and fly-in arrestments.

F 35C

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s F-35C Fleet replacement squadron, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), August 14, 2016.

US Navy

The F-35C achieved initial operational capability in February 2019, when the Naval Air Forces commander announced that “the F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat, and ready to win,” calling the aircraft an “incredible weapon system” that “significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”

Last year, the USS Carl Vinson wrapped up a 17-month maintenance period, during which the carrier was retrofitted to support the F-35C.

Not only does the Vinson’s deployment mark the first time that a carrier strike group has deployed with the F-35C, but it is also the first time one has deployed with the new CMV-22B Osprey, a tiltrotor aircraft that replaced the C-2A Greyhound as long-range, medium-lift logistics asset.

The Navy did not say exactly where the Carl Vinson carrier strike group will deploy to, stating only that the deployment was “in support of global maritime security operations” and that it would begin with participation in Large Scale Exercise 2021.

Capt. P. Scott Miller, the commanding officer for the Vinson, said in a statement on the deployment that “no other weapons system has the responsiveness, endurance, multi-dimensional might, inherent battlespace awareness, or command and control capabilities of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing.” 

The carrier strike group consists of over 7,000 sailors, nine aircraft squadrons, one cruiser, and half a dozen destroyers.

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