The Joint Strike Fighter catapult and arresting cable carrier variant, the F-35C, has officially made its first recovery aboard a US Super Carrier. Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson grabbed the ideal third wire strung across the USS Nimitz's deck at 12:18 local time, a near-perfect first carrier landing for the less-than-perfect fighter.
The F-35C had one of the most embarrassing design faults of the Joint Strike Fighter family. The jet, which cost over $150M, had a tailhook that couldn't reliably catch arresting cables. This resulted in a long redesign of the hook system, which has proven successful in controlled tests, but now has to prove itself aboard an actual rolling and pitching aircraft carrier.
Not unlike the USMC's F-35B first shipboard tests a couple of years ago, the F-35C will be aboard its future mothership for two weeks during its initial at-sea developmental testing phase. While embarked, it will conduct taxiing tests, catapult launches, arresting landings, and ground crews will service the jet in a shipboard environment for the first time.
After landing aboard the Nimitz, Commander Wilson stated:
"Today is a landmark event in the development of the F-35C. It is the culmination of many years of hard work by a talented team of thousands. I'm very excited to see America's newest aircraft on the flight deck of her oldest aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz."
The successful landing of CF-3, the third F-35C built, aboard a nuclear super carrier is very welcome news for the embattled program. The Navy's commitment to the F-35C variant has long been less than stable, so it will be interesting to see how its maiden voyage progresses over the next couple of weeks. Foxtrot Alpha will keep you updated.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com