Preparing Pilots and Maintainers
Currently, more than 1,000 F-35 pilots and 9,000 maintainers have qualified through the F-35 Training System, and 10 nations have pilots and/or maintainers in training. Simulation plays a prominent role in the F-35 training process, more so than legacy platforms. Because of the advanced capabilities of the F-35, it is not possible to adequately challenge pilots in the live environment alone. With simulation, the F-35 team is redefining how pilots train to provide the range of experience required to maximize the jet’s 5th Generation capabilities.
Formal F-35 pilot training is conducted at eight training centers including Eglin AFB, MCAS Beaufort, Luke AFB, NAS Lemoore, RAF Marham, Misawa Air Base, Cheongju Air Base and RAAF Base Williamtown. Formal F-35 maintainer training is conducted at Eglin AFB, RAF Marham, Misawa Air Base, Cheongju Air Base and RAAF Base Williamtown. Formal student training includes instruction using the latest courseware, electronic classrooms, simulators, flight events and event-based maintenance training. To support mission rehearsal and tactics development, F-35 training technologies are also located at operational locations.
More than 290 U.S. and international suppliers are contributing to the F-35 Training System. The F-35 program is built on extensive industrial participation to generate economic growth in F-35 nations and deliver the most affordable, effective technologies.
In all of the high-fidelity Full Mission Simulators, F-35 software gives students the most realistic experience possible while accelerating the process for software upgrades as the F-35 continues to develop and mature. Flexibility is fundamental to the design of the training system and is built into every element, allowing the system to accommodate all three aircraft variants and all U.S. and international services.
The F-35 presents new ways to tactically employ and requires pilots to master new competencies. Pilots train for a broad range of air-to-air, air-to-ground and electronic warfare missions in the simulator. The fidelity of the Full Mission Simulators currently allows 45-55 percent of initial training flights to be accomplished virtually. The syllabus includes technology-driven academics, flights in the Full Mission Simulator and live flights in the aircraft. In comparison, about 30 percent of initial qualification for the F-16 is conducted through simulation.
Because of the aircraft’s computing power, F-35 maintainers must bring a high level of technical expertise to their jobs. Maintainers rotate from the classroom to training devices to develop an in-depth understanding of the F-35 Air Vehicle systems.
The mix of simulation and flight line training varies per maintenance specialty. A majority of training occurs via computer-based courses and hands-on exercises with simulators. A variety of unique training devices provide a truly realistic experience for students. This enables students to execute tasks like maintenance on the landing gear, loading weapons on the aircraft and more.
Using simulation means reduced impact on aircraft availability since the jets aren’t taken off the flying schedule for the majority of training tasks. This also allows maintainers to engage in a variety of maintenance tasks to ensure they are proficient before servicing the jet.
Training that Evolves with the Mission
After graduating from the schoolhouse training at any of the eight locations, pilots and maintainers remain in a continuous learning environment with access to all training courseware, applications and deployable training devices to keep their training up-to-date and sharp. International training will continue to expand significantly in the next five years, as additional training facilities stand up in the U.K., Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. New sites stand ups will also occur in Denmark and Belgium.