ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON --- For Navy pilot Lt. Graham “Boss” Cleveland, landing the Navy’s new Joint Strike Fighter aboard a moving aircraft carrier was a relief.
That relief came not because landing the Navy’s new fighter is more difficult – it comes with a program called Delta Flight Path that functions as a sort of cruise control for the aircraft, which can help to make that crucial step easier – but because this day has been a long time coming.
Cleveland, a landing signal officer who transitioned from the F/A-18C, was aboard for the first two phases of developmental testing of the F-35C Lightning II as the Navy commenced trials in 2014 and 2015. This week, he was at the controls for what’s expected to be the third and final phase of sea-based developmental testing as the Navy puts the aircraft through some of its most rigorous tests yet.
“It’s kind of something I’ve been working toward for quite some time,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland was among 12 pilots from Strike Fighter Squadron 101 “Grim Reapers,” a fleet replacement squadron based at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, to complete carrier qualifications as part of this round of testing. The Navy’s Patuxent River-based Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 will spend the next two to three weeks working through other capabilities, including taking off and landing with external simulated weapons and asymmetrical loading.
The F-35 is the military’s next generation fighter. The Navy’s jet is one of three variations, and includes greater internal fuel capability, larger wings and more robust landing gear for carrier settings. The single-engine stealth fighter will replace the Air Force’s A-10 and F-16, the Navy’s F/A-18 and the Marines’ AV-8B Harrier jets. (end of excerpt)
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