5 Unique F-35C Carrier Variant Features

F-35C Wings

For the first time in U.S. naval aviation history, radar-evading stealth capability will come to the carrier deck. The F-35C carrier variant sets new standards in weapon system integration, lethality, maintainability, combat radius and payload that bring true multi-mission capability to the sea.

As we countdown to the F-35C’s first carrier developmental testing, find out how the F-35C differs from the other F-35 variants and the features that make it suitable for carrier operations:

F-35C Carrier Variant

1. Larger wings

The larger wings of the F-35C make it suitable for catapult launches and fly-in arrestments aboard naval aircraft carriers. The wingspan is especially important during landing and takeoff. To takeoff on a short carrier runway, the wings need to be effective at lifting the aircraft quickly. They are equally as important during landing because the larger wingspan helps with stability and airspeed. The aircraft lands at a high speed so that if they miss the hook when attempting to land they are still able to quickly take off and try again. Without the capability to takeoff quickly, the aircraft would be unable to function at sea.

F-35C Wingtips Folded

2. Wingtips that fold

While a wide wingspan is essential on a carrier ship, it also takes up precious cargo space on the deck. To combat this, the F-35C’s wingtips fold to allow for easy storage in tight quarters to create more room on the carrier’s deck while deployed.

F-35C Arrestment

3. More robust landing gear

Landing an aircraft with a top speed of Mach 1.6 on the deck of a Navy aircraft carrier isn’t easy. The limited runway on the flight deck means there isn’t much room to slow down after landing. Instead, the pilot has to perfectly time and aim the aircraft to hook the line on the carrier deck to bring the aircraft to a halt. The F-35C‘s upgraded landing gear is specifically designed to structurally withstand and absorb the shock of landing on a carrier.

4. Two wheels in the front

Stability is a priority and a necessity when landing on a naval carrier ship. While the robust landing gear takes care of the logistics of landing at a high capacity, the two wheels in the front of the aircraft provide stability, and absorb the shock of landing.

F-35C carrier variant

5. Greater internal fuel capacity

The F-35C also has the greatest internal fuel capacity of the three F-35 variants. The F-35C carries nearly 20,000 pounds of internal fuel for longer range and better persistence than any other fighter in a combat configuration. And, like the F-35B, the F-35C uses probe and drogue refueling. This allows the Navy to operate its carriers a safe distance from the threat while its fighters reach remote targets. 

October 29, 2014