The first of a pair of new Lockheed Martin F-35C fighter planes successfully landed on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, marking the first landing of the new war jets while utilizing its tailhook system.
A spokesman for the F-35 joint program office of the Pentagon, Joe DellaVedova, said that the landing of the F-35C on USS Nimitz off the San Diego coast is part of a sea-based testing run that will last for two weeks to Nov. 17.
The F-35C's successful landing is a significant milestone for the $399 billion program, which is the biggest weapons project ever undertaken by the Pentagon.
The F-35 program looks to replace more than a dozen various kinds of war jets that are still being used by the military of the United States and of its ally countries.
After overrun costs and significant delays that were experienced at the beginning, the program has now been able to stick to its schedule and planned costs after a major restructuring was implemented in 2010.
However, a temporary grounding was ordered on the entire fleet of new F-35C's in June after an engine failure problem. The grounding resulted in a delay in testing by between 45 and 50 days.
The currently ongoing sea-based testing run of the war jets will give the program officials important information regarding performance while on an aircraft carrier, making way for any adjustments that will need to be made to ensure that the program remains on track to have the new fleet up in the air by 2018.
The landing of the fleet's CF-03 unit on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz was deemed a "landmark event" by the man that was operating the airplane, namely Commander Tony Wilson, who is a test pilot from the Navy.
Naval Air Forces commander Vice Admiral David Buss said that Wilson's landing of the war jet marked that beginning of the integration of the new generation of war planes into the carrier-based forces of the United States.
The second F-35C jet will arrive within the week, and will also participate in the two-week testing programs. The sea-based test runs are part of the first testing phase that is planned for the new war jets, with two more phases after the initial one.
The current testing phase will require the test pilots to carry out several operational maneuvers on the new airplanes, which will include several catapult takeoffs and tailhook-assisted arrested landings.
The tailhook of the new F-35C's had to undergo a redesign due to problems in the early testing of the component while on land.
The new war jets will serve as a compliment to the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is the strike fighter jet that the Navy is currently using as part of its carrier air squad.