The Arrival of the F-35C for the Carrier Fleet


2017-02-27 The F-35C is a key part of the evolving carrier air wing.

Its importance was highlighted in an interview we did with the current Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems (OPNAV N9) when he was head of Naval Air Warfare at N98.

Question: When we were at Fallon, the air wing training to go out on deployment was in real time communications with the Bush on deployment in the Middle East. 

And the Fallon team is working hard to evolve the approach to Live Virtual Constructive Training in order to be able to fight effectively in the expanded battlespace with higher speed warfare and operational dynamics. 

How do you view the impact of these new capabilities on shaping the sea base going forward?

Rear Admiral Manazir: The ability to share information between decision-makers and staffs that are not all geographically located, is getting better and better. This allows not only dynamic combat learning but provides greater fidelity to the training process as air wings prepare to deploy.

In the past, we only sent text reports. Now we are sending full motion video. The EA-18G Growler can send actual data back to the warfighting center and say: “We have not seen this signal before, what is it?”

And then the labs can run it through their data libraries and work the problem to ID the signal and send their findings back to the deployed fleet.

The Arrival of the F-35C at Naval Air Station Lemoore from on Vimeo.

The F-35s coming to the fleet will add significantly to this process. It is about rapid combat learning in a dynamic warfighting environment.

We are shaping the foundation for “learning airplanes” to engage the enemy.

LVC will enable us to train in a more robust environment than we are on our current ranges that are geographically constrained, and currently do not have the full high end threat replicated. LVC will allow us to train to the full capabilities of our platforms across a variety of security environments and do so without exposing our training process to an interested adversary.

Question: What you are talking about is shaping real time combat forensics against an active and dynamic threat?

Rear Admiral Manazir: That is a great way to put it. And this capability is crucial going forward.

We’re back into a scenario where lots of threats around the world require us to react to enemy learning. Then, when they act in accordance to our reaction, we react again and so on. The enemy morphs to do X. We have to react and we now do Y.

What is not widely realized is that the evolving air wing on the carrier and on the large deck amphibious ships, is being shaped for a dynamic learning process. The F-35s will play a key role in this evolving process, but we are already underway with this process as you mentioned with regard to Fallon.

With regard to the air war, where it’s either air-to-ground missions or air-to-air missions, we can share that information and bring in more people into the discussion with our long-range information and communication systems.

That kind of capability is foundational to the evolving air wing.

We’re also working on the capability to bring in national technical means into a cockpit where the synapses that are required to do that are significant to be able to have something with a relatively low latency.

Imagine an off-board sensor that gives you a piece of information in the battle space that you can get into the cockpit and adds to the information you already have. It’s about closing down the information deltas that we have traditionally considered as a strategic national asset with a tactical naval asset.

And we’re closing down the connection lines between where we get that information and conveying to the warfighter.

There is a constant effort to enhance the ability to get intel to the warfighter so he can act on it.

Question: What you are describing is the fighter wing as sortieing of information, and not only weapons?

Rear Admiral Manazir: That is a good way to put it.

We are doing what Bayesian theory talks about, namely we are providing more and more information to get closer to the truth in targeting or combat situation. One can reduce that fog of war by increased understanding of what actual truth is, you’re going to have better effects.

This is why the technology that the F-35 brings to the fight is so crucial.

You have decision-makers in the cockpit managing all of this information.

With Block 3F software in the airplane, we will have data fusion where you transform data information to knowledge enabling greater wisdom about the combat situation.

The processing machines in the F-35 provide enough of the fusion so that the pilot can now add his piece to the effort.

This enables the ships to enhance their ability to operate in the networks and to engage with the air fleet in dynamic targeting at much greater distance.

It is about reach not range for the honeycomb enabled expeditionary strike group. The F-35 is a key enabler of this shift, but it is part of an overall effort to operate in the expanded battlespace.

Recently, the first F-35Cs have arrived at at Lemoore Naval Air Station beginning the new phase of naval airpower evolution and force structure integration.

According to an article by Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, the significance of the arrival of the F-35Cs for the fleet was highlighted.

Naval aviation reached a significant milestone on January 25 when the first four F-35C Lightning II aircraft arrived at Naval Air Station Lemoore. It was also a historic day for NAS Lemoore, our only West Coast Master Jet Base, and the local community partners who’ve been so supportive of Naval Aviation’s presence in California’s central valley for more than 50 years.

I attended the arrival ceremony with Rear Adm. Roy “Trigger” Kelley, who is doing great work as the Director of the Navy’s F-35C Fleet Integration Office; Jeff Babione, Executive Vice President for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Program; and Capt. Markus “Goody” Gudmundsson, Commodore, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific.

Lemoore has been home to the Navy’s west coast strike fighter community since 1980, when VFA-125 was the first squadron established to train Navy and Marine Corps aviators in the F/A-18 Hornet. Earlier in January, we reactivated VFA-125 as the Navy’s first F-35C fleet replacement squadron, and I am confident the squadron’s storied history and legacy will continue as they start to fly the Navy’s newest strike fighter aircraft.

The arrival of the F-35C at NAS Lemoore marks the beginning of what will be a critical element of our future carrier air wings and the future of Naval Aviation. To keep pace with global threats, we need to integrate a carrier-based 5th generation aircraft – the F-35C is that aircraft.

The four jets that flew in to Lemoore bring incredible new capabilities and truly game changing technologies.

The aircraft’s stealth technology will allow it to penetrate and conduct attacks inside threat envelopes, and its integrated sensor packages collect and fuse information to provide a common operational picture for the carrier strike group and joint forces, and most importantly, enable long range identification of air and surface targets….

January 25th was a historic day for Naval Aviation, for the broader NAS Lemoore community and for the new team of professionals at VFA-125. Naval Aviation has taken another major step forward with the arrival of F-35Cs at Lemoore, and these first four aircraft are just the beginning of an extremely bright future for our carrier air wings!