After years and years of waiting, the last variant of the Joint Strike Fighter — the F-35C Lightning II — is officially operational. But it’s still a couple of years away from making an impact on the high seas — and some questions about the plane remain.
The U.S. Navy on Feb. 28 declared that the F-35C, the aircraft carrier-capable variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter, had reached initial operational capability (IOC). The Marine Corps vertical-lift F-35B and the Air Force conventional F-35A variants already have been declared operational.
The first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 147, completed carrier qualifications aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) as a precursor to IOC. All that remains is a couple of years of preparations until the first squadron deploys aboard the Carl Vinson.
However, issues still surround the aircraft, which was plagued by development and production delays over its history.
A report issued in March by nonprofit watchdog Project on Government Oversight declared that the F-35 was “far from ready to face current or future threats,” citing data that allegedly shows “unacceptably low” mission-capable rates. The watchdog group also stated that the F-35 was initially promised at $38 million per plane but that they now average $158.4 million apiece. (end of excerpt)
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