F-35C Integration into the Fleet
As the first director for the Navy’s F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Fleet Integration Office, I have enjoyed the opportunities and challenges of bringing fifth-generation strike-fighter capabilities to the fleet. As this highly advanced weapons system matures, I am convinced the F-35C will be a cornerstone platform that plays a crucial role in mission success for Carrier Air Wings (CVW), Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) and numbered fleets. The F-35C will be a game-changer for the Navy.
The F-35C Lightning II will introduce next generation strike-fighter aircraft capabilities to the Navy CVW , enabling the CSG and numbered fleets to effectively engage and survive a wide range of rapidly evolving threats, both air and surface, in contested airspace.
The unique capabilities of the F-35C, coupled with the proven capabilities and capacity of current United States Navy fighter aircraft, significantly enhance a CSG’s battle space awareness, lethality and survivability. In supporting a principle Department of Defense investment objective of balancing modernization and readiness, the Navy remains committed to selecting the right procurement ramp for F-35C to balance strike-fighter inventory management with the cost and time required to field advanced capabilities. The Navy will maintain and sustain much of its current force in order to guarantee mission success against the threats of today, as well as the high-end threats of the future.
Near-peer adversaries are advancing technologically and economically, resulting in proliferation of highly capable Integrated Air Defense Systems, high performance aircraft and information operations to include:
- Long-range air surveillance radars and airborne early warning aircraft
- Long-range surface-to-air missiles
- Highly maneuverable, low observable adversary aircraft
- Jamming and anti-jamming operations against communication, radar and Global Positioning System satellites
Left unchecked, this threat proliferation will constrain the CSG’s ability to project power. As technologies continue to advance, the future air wing will continue to adapt as it always has, particularly to increase its capacity to contribute to the sea control mission, conducting both kinetic and non-kinetic operations. The F-35C will be the CSG’s first choice to penetrate and operate in these contested environments, providing a day-one strike capability. Integrated with other fleet assets, the F-35C’s tactical agility and strategic flexibility are critical to maintain a long-term decisive tactical advantage.