The U.S. Navy’s first operational squadron to operate the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) received its first aircraft on Saturday, June 22, when CF-6 arrived at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The aircraft was piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Tabert, an F-35C instructor pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA-101), who landed after a two-hour flight from Fort Worth, Texas.
VFA-101, based at Eglin, will become the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron, training aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly and service the aircraft.
The C is the carrier variant of the JSF, with a different wing, more robust landing gear and a tail hook for carrier operations. The F-35A is operated by conventional land-based air forces, while the F-35B short-take-off-or-vertical-landing (STOVL) version is to be operated by the U.S. Marine Corps and several foreign partners.
Developmental testing of the F-35C continues, but the aircraft is not yet operational. In particular, work continues on software, helmet development, and improving the tailhook arrangement.