After several decades of testing and development, the service announced Thursday that the fifth-generation fighter had achieved Initial Operating Capability, indicating that it has passed all tests to be flown on combat missions.
Thursday's announcement came after a squadron of the F-35Cs qualified and deployed with the San Diego-based Nimitz-class supercarrier, Carl Vinson.
"The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win," said Commander Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller. "We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force."
Lockheed Martin, one of the Pentagon's top defense suppliers, designed three variants of the plane: the F-35A for the Air Force, F-35B for the Marine Corps, and F-35C for the Navy.