An F-35C Lightning II from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 conducts flight operations aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Oct 18. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Sean M. Castellano)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Navy’s first stealth fighter conducted flight operations Oct. 18 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as the aircraft carrier trained off the coast of Southern California.

An F-35C Lightning II, the Navy variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, landed on and launched from Carl Vinson during day and nighttime operations, completing another step toward becoming an operationally capable aircraft.

“The training helped us to confidently land and launch an aircraft we’ve never dealt with before,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Alexsis Labrake. “Being the first to ever do it on the Vinson was a pretty cool experience.”

The aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125, based in Lemoore, Calif., flew aboard as Carl Vinson conducted carrier qualifications.

“We’re supporting efforts to flight test the current helmet mounted display system,” said Lt. Cmdr. Josh Reynolds, VFA-125’s operations officer.

The F-35C is the world’s only 5th generation, long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built for aircraft carrier operations. It is scheduled to achieve initial operating capability for the Navy late next year.

Carl Vinson will likely be the first West Coast-based carrier to deploy with an F-35C squadron after undergoing a scheduled maintenance period in 2019.

“It really is a first,” said Reynolds. “For the first time we will have the ability to launch a stealthy, deep-strike outfit from a carrier that can take part in penetration of enemy air defenses on day one.”

Commissioned in 1982, USS Carl Vinson is America’s third Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The ship’s primary mission is to conduct sustained combat air operations with an air wing complement of more than 60 aircraft.

Vinson operates with a strike group that serves as the Navy’s premier forward-deployed force, providing a deterrent against aggression and protecting U.S. interests around the world.

The unique capabilities of the F-35C, coupled with proven aircraft in the current U.S. inventory, significantly enhance the carrier strike group’s battle space awareness, lethality and survivability.

An F-35C Lightning II operates aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy/MC2 Sean M. Castellano)