WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 18 SEAPOWER / MAY 2016
it; that stuff doesn’t just come to life on its own. That
takes hard work.”
Christie will lead a VFA-101 detachment to an
aircraft carrier in June for the first fleet daylight car-
rier qualifications in the F-35C. The detachment will
include four F-35Cs and about 10 pilots, plus mainte-
nance personnel. The carrier trials, to date, have been
conducted only by test pilots.
“We’re excited,” Christie said. “That’s a big deal for
us. … Once we do that and we get some good lessons
learned and we come back, we will start to spin up for
a November detachment to a carrier where we will do
day and night carrier qualification.”
Also this fall, the F-35C will be put through
Developmental Test III carrier trials, said Joe DellaVedova,
public affairs director for the F- 35 program office. The
trials likely will be conducted on board USS George
Washington, although that is subject to change.
DellaVedova told Seapower that as of late March,
Lockheed Martin had delivered 24 F-35Cs, some of
which are assigned to VX- 23 for developmental testing.
The program of record is 260 F-35Cs for the Navy plus
67 for the Marine Corps. Under present planning, each
carrier air wing will operate one F-35C squadron.
The initial operational capability for the F-35C currently is scheduled for the third quarter of fiscal 2018,
said Jeff Babione, the F- 35 general program manager
for Lockheed Martin.
The Navy is waiting for the Block 3F software to be
delivered, which, DellaVedova said, will give the F- 35
its design combat capability that will include full multi-aircraft data fusion, full air-to-air and air-to-ground
internal and external weapons capability, a gun pod and
full capability of the helmet, radar, electronic warfare,
electro-optical and distributed aperture systems.
DellaVedova said that, according to the latest Defense
Department Selective Acquisition Report (SAR), procurement, operational and support costs of the F- 35
have been declining, with a reduction of $7.5 billion (in
2012 dollars) from $331 billion to $319 billion. The services expect to fly an additional 1. 6 million flight hours,
adding six years to the life of the program. Production is
expected to run through 2038 and the F- 35 is expected
to serve through 2070, a 60-year program.
Mike Rein, spokesman for the Lockheed Martin
F- 35 program, said the current unit flyaway cost of an
F-35C is $129 million. The program office is working
to get the unit price well below $100 million.
DellaVedova said the cost of an F-35C had declined
by $1 million since the 2014 SAR.
A target for extensive criticism, the F- 35 program
currently is benefiting from positive momentum, officials said.
“Overall, the F- 35 program is executing fairly well
across the entire spectrum of acquisition, to include
development and design, flight test, production, field-
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 launches off the flight deck of
the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Atlantic Ocean Oct. 6. A detachment from Strike Fighter Squadron
101 will undertake the first fleet daylight carrier qualifications in the F-35C in June.