The Navy has declared its carrier-capable F-35Cs "ready for combat," a major milestone for the fifth-generation stealth fighter.
The Navy's version of the F-35 has achieved initial operational capability (IOC), the Navy said on Feb. 28, 2019.
"The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win," Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of naval air forces, said. "We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force."
This news follows an earlier announcement by the Navy in December 2018 that the service's first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, had completed the critical aircraft-carrier qualifications aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
"The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments," Rear Adm. Dale Horan, the director of the US Navy F-35C Fleet Integration Office, said in a statement.
With Feb. 28, 2019's IOC declaration, which follows decades of testing and development, the Navy has joined the Marine Corps and Air Force, both of which have already declared their F-35 variants combat-ready. The Marine Corps was the first service to take the F-35 into combat.
"This milestone is the result of unwavering dedication from our joint government and industry team focused on delivering the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world to the men and women of the US Navy," Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin's vice president and general manager for the F-35 Program, said in statement, CNBC reported.
Lockheed Martin developed the A, B, and C variants of the F-35 for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, respectively, with each version featuring different combat capabilities.
Recognized as America's most expensive weapons system, the F-35 stealth fighter has faced constant criticism and numerous developmental setbacks, but now all three variants are officially ready to wage war.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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