The US Navy and Marine Corps decided to invest heavily in two variants of this fighter, the F-35B and the F-35C
Known for its greater wing fold, greater lift, and larger fuel compartment than the F-35A, the F-35C is designed for carrier-based launch and recovery in carrier strike groups. Compared to the F-35A, the F-35C features larger wings with foldable wingtip sections, larger control surfaces for improved low-speed control, stronger landing gear for the stresses of carrier arrested landings, a twin-wheel nose gear, and a stronger tailhook for use with carrier arrestor cables. The larger wing area allows for decreased landing speed while increasing both range and payload. The F-35C is limited to 7.5 g.
The maximum payload of the F-35C is 8 tons, larger than the 7 tons of the F-35B. The F-35C stealth fighters also support a combat range of 670 nautical miles, while that of the F-35B is 505 nautical miles. The F-35C will provide a huge leap in capabilities over current US Navy carrier-based fighters such as Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Super Hornets have a combat radius of less than 400 nautical miles without refueling, so carriers deploying these outdated fighters will put themselves in danger if they are within range of recently developed anti-ship missiles from Russia and China.
The larger combat radius of the F-35Cs makes it easier for them to operate within safe ranges and enhances their survivability on the battlefield. The upcoming MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueling drone could extend the range of the F-35C and Super Hornet by another 400 nautical miles.
And yet, with its available capabilities, it can easily attack multiple targets in a single sortie and perform deep penetration missions, which were once considered impractical or too risky for fourth-generation fighters. The F-35C’s sensor fusion capabilities also make it possible to build precise and detailed combat information to share with all other connected vehicles in the air, on land, and at sea.
Similar to the other two variants of the F-35, the F-35C offers flexible payload capacity. Its internal weapon configuration also ensures stealth against the most sophisticated enemy air defense systems. In case of need, external weapon hardpoints will be used to increase firepower.