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By midafternoon Friday, the teeth-rattling thunder from repeated catapult launches of the Navy's next-generation fighter plane had stopped.
The test pilots and crews for the F-35C Lightning II, the Navy's version of the new Joint Striker Fighter, were wrapping up a short stint on the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower that began last week under "suboptimal conditions" as Hurricane Joaquin threatened and ended Friday under sunny skies.
In between, the single-engine stealth fighter, which is to join the Navy's fleet in 2018, underwent its second round of carrier takeoffs and landings about 100 miles off Virginia's coast. Its first carrier tests were a year ago on the Nimitz in the Pacific.
The Navy's jet is one of three versions of the same plane, with variations also built for the Air Force and the Marine Corps. The Navy's F-35 has a larger wingspan and reinforced equipment to allow for carrier landings, while the Marines' version can make vertical landings and operate with shorter takeoffs from the deck of an amphibious ship. The Marines declared their plane operational in July, and the Air Force expects to do the same in August.