The US Navy’s F-35C will head back to the seas for the third round of developmental tests aboard the aircraft carrier George Washington.

The US Navy’s F-35C naval variant will enter its third set of carrier qualifications that will contain full envelope testing while onboard the USS George Washington. Initial sea trials of the jet began 3 November 2014.

Those who got the opportunity to work with the next generation strike fighter on its initial sea trial run said the F-35C has attributes that aren’t found elsewhere in the airwing. The aircraft is easy to taxi, has a smoother ride and has less complicated landing procedures.

However the next set of tests completely open up the entire envelope of possible launch and recover operations for the multi-role strike fighter.

“They’re going to open up the full envelope of the airplane to land and take off from the carrier, which means things like heavyweight, asymmetric stores, heavy cross winds, high seas,”F-35 PEO Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said. “Plus we’ll do a lot of reliability, maintainability and maintenance administrations to make sure we get that right.”

The F-35C will attempt full max weight catapult shots and landing arrestments. The objective is to see how the F-35C performs in the extreme weight limit zones. Additionally, asymmetric catapult shots will also be incorporated into the testing phase.  When being launched from the catapult, extreme side loading can cause launch problems.

This means an F-35 will have a severe weight imbalance of stores during the catapult shots. Pilots and developers will have to gather data from each cycle to determine what trim and catapult settings are required for safe and effective launches.

(July 11, 2016) - A T-45C Goshawk, assigned to Training Air Wing (TRAWING) 1, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). Washington, homeported in Norfolk, is underway conducting carrier qualifications in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael E. Wiese/Released)
(July 11, 2016) – A T-45C Goshawk, assigned to Training Air Wing (TRAWING) 1, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). Washington, homeported in Norfolk, is underway conducting carrier qualifications in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael E. Wiese/Released)

This testing will hopefully put the Joint Strike Fighter naval variant closer to final approval.  The “C” model is planned to become operational in 2018.

Watch: F-35C Sea Trial Carrier Operations

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The USS George Washington, home-ported in Norfolk, VA, is currently conducting carrier qualifications for training aircraft from TRAWING 1.

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Top photo credit: An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter previously conducts approaches to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) for an arrested landing. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe/Released)