WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy has declared its fleet of F-35C fighter jets ready for war, the Department of Defense announced Thursday. The Navy joins the Marine Corps and Air Force as the third and final service branch to declare their F-35s ready for war.
"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 Martin, the Pentagon's top weapons supplier, designed three variants of the fighter in order to accommodate the unique needs of each sister-service branch: the F-35A for the Air Force, F-35B for the Marine Corps, and F-35C for the Navy.
"This milestone is the result of unwavering dedication from our joint government and industry team focused on delivering the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world to the men and women of the U.S. Navy," said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program, in a statement.
The F-35, a fifth-generation stealth fighter, valued at an acquisition cost of $406.5 billion, has become one of the most challenged programs in Pentagon history. The laundry list of setbacks includes faulty ejection seats, software delays and significant helmet-display issues.