The carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II strike fighter has successfully completed initial sea-based development testing during two weeks of trials aboard USS Nimitz. Two F-35C test aircraft completed 124 catapult launches, 222 touch-and-go landings, and 124 arrested landings, with no missed attempts to catch an arresting wire on the flight deck with its redesigned tail hook.
The test pilots reported such confidence in the aircraft’s automated control systems, which are designed to help pilots capture and maintain a safe approach and trap, that they were able to test in less than ideal weather conditions and even conduct night operations ahead of schedule.
The F-35C, which is scheduled to replace carrier-borne F/A-18A, B, C, and D Hornets from 2018, has larger wings and tail control surfaces than the other two variants, making it morestable at the lower airspeeds which are required for landing on a flight deck. It also has stronger landinggear and a tail hook.