Carl Vinson, Navy’s first operational F-35C squadron conduct flight deck certification

September 18, 2020 – USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) successfully completed several certifications, including flight deck certification (FDC) and carrier air traffic control center (CATCC) certification, Sept. 17, after nearly a week of flight deck operations designed to ready the carrier for future operations.

The underway also marked the first time that Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and Vinson, both part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, fully integrated and operated together since the addition of the F-35C Lightning II.

An F-35C Lightning II from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 demonstrates a flyby above USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Sept. 16. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Michael A. Lee)

“The flight deck certification is one of many ways the Navy ensures the safety and readiness of our equipment and personnel,” said Rear Adm. Timothy J. Kott, commander, CSG-1. “The fact that Vinson was able to safely and successfully complete the flight deck certification while operating with the Navy’s first operational F-35 squadron is an exciting bonus.”

FDC is required for the carrier to embark aircraft, the primary weapons system for the platform, and is designed to provide operational continuity and proficiency training for carrier crews. During FDC, the carrier is evaluated on its ability to launch and recover aircraft in a safe manner in both day and night time operations.

Vinson, along with CVW-2 squadrons, also achieved certification in precision approach landing systems (PALS), joint precision approach landing systems (JPALS) and carrier qualifications for the six fixed-wing squadrons.

F-35C Lightning II’s from VFA-147 start their engines aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Sept. 17. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Katlyn E. Huska)

“These certifications ensure that Vinson meets the standards and, in our case, we went above and beyond the certification requirements,” said Capt. Matthew Paradise, Vinson’s commanding officer. “I’m not surprised we did so well because every day the teamwork I saw demonstrated by the ship’s crew and the air wing was fantastic. Their technical expertise, attention to detail and hard work resulted in our successful completion of certifications.”

Prior to integrated operations with the air wing, Vinson underwent a 17-month maintenance availability to receive major upgrades in support of 5th generation aircraft, making Vinson the first aircraft carrier equipped to support both the F-35C Lightning II and CMV-22 Osprey. Upgrades included enhanced jet blast deflectors able to take the increased heat generated by the F-35C and the addition of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), the new computer network that supports the unique maintenance and tactical operations functions of the advanced aircraft.

With its recent modifications, no other weapons system has the responsiveness, endurance, multi-dimensional might, inherent battlespace awareness or command and control capabilities of the Vinson and CVW-2.

Other components of the air wing include three U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) that fly the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, one Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) that operates the EA-18G Growler, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) that operates the E-2D Hawkeye, one Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) and one Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC). Through multiplatform integration, CVW-2 will provide fleet commanders the ability to achieve the advantage across multiple domains: air, land, sea and electromagnetic.

An F-35C Lightning II attached to VFA-147 lands aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Sept. 13. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Katlyn E. Huska)

Integration between the air wing and ship’s company is crucial to the everyday success of carrier operations. These flight operations take detailed coordination between ship’s company and the air wing squadrons, and flight deck certification was an opportunity to build that relationship.

“In the carrier environment, teamwork is everything,” said Capt. Matt Thrasher, commander of CVW-2. “Our Sailors and aircrew are focused on the task at hand and the path forward to deployment. Our success with the Vinson team is a direct result of the dedication, training and deployment-ready mentality we embrace daily.”

With the flight deck and air traffic control center now fully qualified, Vinson is eligible to perform carrier qualifications for new pilots and other missions to support the Fleet. Next, Vinson will complete a series of additional “work ups” and certifications in preparation for future operational tasking.

In accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols, all embarked personnel completed restriction of movement or COVID-19 testing, as required, prior to the ship’s underway period.

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