The Navy and Joint Strike Fighter team have gone back to the carrier for further test, integration and development flights with the F-35C. Two of the jets landed aboard the USS Eisenhower yesterday for what will be two weeks of at-sea trials. Their arrival was a wet one, a rare occasion for the F-35 which is usually seen flying in fair weather conditions.

Dubbed the “Development Test II,” the mission will see the F-35Cs perform more catapult departures and arrested landings, as well as maintainence and fit checks aboard the carrier. The information gathered during this detachment will be used to make recommendations for adjustments needed to support full-up F-35C operations aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers as well as a report on the aircraft’s general performance while deployed at sea.

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Recently the F-35C’s cousin, the Marines’ F-35B, was met with controversy after the results of its most recent “operational test” aboard a Navy amphibious assault ship ended up being troublesome to say the least. Still, the Marines went on to declare the F-35B operational anyway.

This will be the F-35C’s second deployment aboard a supercarrier, with the last series of tests occurring nearly a year ago. These initial tests saw many firsts, including the F-35C’s first carrier landings and catapult departures.

Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts described the deployment:

“The goal of this test phase is to find out how we can expand the envelope in which this aircraft works in an effective and safe fashion... We have a huge team working on this, and I know that each time I get in this aircraft it’s the culmination of a lot of people’s hard work.”

The F-35C is scheduled to become operational with the Navy in 2018 if everything goes as planned.

We will keep you updated on this deployment as it unfolds.