KEY POINTS

  • The USS Carl Vinson completed a 17-month upgrade to support F-35s.
  • The strike group also has onboard Navy CMV-22B Osprey, the tiltrotor aircraft.
  • The Osprey can land vertically like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing plane.

The USS Carl Vinson and its strike group headed out from San Diego on Monday for the Indo-Pacific region, carrying an air wing of F-35C Lightning II fighter jets -- the first time the Navy has deployed the stealth planes on its carriers. 

The 41-year-old Nimitz-class aircraft carrier completed a 17-month upgrade to support F-35s, claimed to be the most advanced jet on the planet, reported NBC San Diego. 

The ship entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, in 2019 for a $367-million retrofitting to accommodate the jets, besides maintenance on its rudders, shafts, tanks, and crew living spaces, among other work, according to the Navy.

The jets, faster than the speed of sound, replace F/A 18s. The new addition has various sensors and systems capable of diagnosing and solving problems quickly.

"To be able to cue weapons and cue sensors with your helmet and have that displayed to you, it's a massive increase for situational awareness," the report quoted Major Robert Ahern, a Marine Corps pilot.

The aircraft carrier also has onboard Navy CMV-22B Osprey, the tiltrotor aircraft that can land vertically like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing plane. It can also haul needed spare parts, including the F-35C’s replacement F135 jet engine, from either a cargo ship at sea or a shoreside facility, reported USNI News. 

With its short takeoff and landing capabilities, the Osprey will replace the Navy’s aging C-2 Greyhound, a logistics workhouse that delivers people, mail, and cargo from shore to ship.

According to the Navy, the strike group, manned by over 7,000 sailors, has been deployed "in support of global maritime security operations." However, officers have not mentioned where exactly in the Indo-Pacific region the group is headed for.

Besides USS Carl Vinson, the carrier strike group includes the nine squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, and six guided-missile destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 1. The destroyers include USS Higgins, USS O’Kane, USS Chafee, USS Dewey, USS Stockdale, and USS Michael Murphy.

In June, the strike carrier group conducted a two-week drill near the Hawaiian Islands, as the Russian Navy held a massive exercise in the nearby waters. Ironically, Russia's training focused on a scenario that revolved around "detecting, countering and delivering missile strikes against an aircraft carrier strike group of a mock enemy.”

uss carl vinson File picture of USS Carl Vinson. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters