CF-1, the first Navy F-35C test aircraft, made its inaugural flight on Sunday from NAS-JRB Fort Worth, Tex., Lockheed Martin announced Monday. Company test pilot Jeff Knowles, a retired naval aviator, was at the controls for the 57-minute flight. “I am thrilled the F-35C has attained this milestone,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Kilcline, commander of Naval Air Forces, adding, “I look forward to the F-35C’s continued progress, and observing developmental flight testing at [NAS] Patuxent River [Md.], later this summer.” The F-35C variant is optimized for carrier operations. As such, it has a larger wing and control surfaces and additional structural strength than its Air Force F-35A and Marine Corps F-35B cousins. AF-1, the first weight-optimized F-35A airframe, first flew in November 2009. BF-1, the first short take-off, vertical landing F-35B test aircraft, took to the skies for the first time in June 2008.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.