The service announced on Thursday the Lockheed Martin jets had achieved initial operating capability (IOC), which means they had passed required tests to carry out missions.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” said Commander Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller, in a statement. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
Lockheed built three different models of the F-35 tailored to meet the needs of the different branches of the military – the F-35C was the variant designed for the Navy.
The first scheduled deployment is in 2021.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system ever.
The U.S. Navy has plans to procure 273 F-35Cs, according to Lockheed.
The F-35C is the world’s first long-range stealth strike fighter designed specifically for Navy carrier operations. It is designed to allow operators to evade detection and operate in aerial denial environments. According to Lockheed, the fighter jet has the most advanced sensors of any jet and the longest fuel range of any F-35 variant.
The jets can carry a combined 18,000 pounds of internal and external weapons.
The F-35C, which is 51.5 feet in length, can reach speeds of about 1,200 miles per hour.
The Marines and the Air Force have both already declared their F-35 variants combat ready.