US Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) completed fleet carrier qualifications (CQ) for F-35C pilots on March 17-21.
Pilots assigned to VFA-125 ‘Rough Raiders’ from NAS Lemoore, California, and VFA-101 ‘Grim Reapers’ from Eglin AFB, Florida, completed day and night qualifications with 140 traps in anticipation of F-35C operational testing later this year.
Aboard for part of the CQ was RADM Dale Horan, director of the U.S. Navy F-35C Fleet Integration Office, who was previously embarked aboard Abraham Lincoln during a nine-and-a-half-month deployment in 2002. ‘It’s personally interesting for me, but also professionally, it’s really neat to see this aircraft out there with other aircraft; we haven’t done that before. Previously, all the CQ evolutions have just been F-35s,’ said RADM Horan.
‘My original platform is the Hornet, which I’ve flown for the past three years,’ said LT Nick Rezendes, a pilot attached to VFA-101, who qualified on the F-35C during this CQ. ‘I wanted to switch to flying the Navy’s newest aircraft, and now that I have, I wouldn’t mind sticking with it for the rest of my career.’
Another important element of this underway period was the continued integration of the F-35’s Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS) with Abraham Lincoln. ALIS integrates F-35 mission planning, maintenance, supply chain and sustainment information.
During Abraham Lincoln’s previous F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) carrier qualifications in December of 2017, an operational squadron accomplished the use of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) for the first time. The GPS-based, all-weather landing system works to provide accurate and reliable information for carrier landing approach, allowing F-35Cs to land during inclement weather.
‘It’s shaping up to be a fantastic aircraft,’ said Horan. ‘As with any program, there are always complexities in getting it fielded, but we are working through those. This aircraft is very capable and it’ll be really neat to watch it develop.’