The carrier variant of the F-35 (CF-1) Joint Strike Fighter flew for the first time with a Navy test pilot at the controls Feb. 11.
Taking off at 2:06 p.m., Lt Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus flew the F-35C for approximately two hours. Buus’ first flight in the CF-1 checked the function of the flutter excitation system, which will help measure structural loads of the airframe during various flight maneuvers.
“The aircraft flew great for more than two hours with no issues. It’s a really smooth, solid flying airplane and a joy to fly,” said Buus. “This flight was a great milestone for me, personally, and more importantly, for the services during the 100 year anniversary of naval aviation. This airplane is going to give us a great leap in capability, and I’m looking forward to putting it through the demanding carrier suitability tests required to ensure it’s ready for the fleet.”
The F-35C is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B variants with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for greater control in the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment.
“Magic’s flight today is a tremendous accomplishment for him and the test team, and a historic event for naval aviation,” said Capt. Thomas Huff, commodore of Naval Test Wing Atlantic. “The determination and thoroughness of test professionals across all our programs is shaped by the education and training they receive at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and Test and Evaluation University, ensuring delivery of warfighting capability to Sailors and Marines.”
Coincidentally timed with the kickoff of the Centennial of Naval Aviation in San Diego, this milestone represents the Navy’s first hands-on experience in its future fighter aircraft with stealth capabilities.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is in the system design and development phase, focusing on delivering three different, new aircraft variants to the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. The integrated test force at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., is focused on testing and evaluation of the F-35B and F-35C.