In Depth

The Flying Desk: Weapons School Syllabus Takes Shape

Nellis AFB, Nevada // September 28, 2017

The 6th Weapons Squadron was one of the original Aero Squadrons established by the U.S. Army Signal Corps on March 13, 1917, at Fort Kamehameha, Territory of Hawaii. The squadron was deactivated in 1947 and now, 70 years later, the U.S. Air Force reactivated it, making it the first squadron of the F-35A Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada.

The pilots selected for this prestigious assignment are the best of the best and once they graduate, their task is to bring the knowledge, tactics and training back to F-35A fighter squadrons all around the world. 

“The Air Force weapons school is the equivalent to getting a PhD in your particular weapon system,” said Bob Dobbs, Lockheed Martin F-35 Nellis Site Lead. “The pilots we train here at the weapons school are probably in the top five percentile of pilots in their particular MDS (Mission Design Series). The very best of the best. It’s really a pleasure for us to be able to work with them as they move and progress through the weapons school.”

Bob Dobbs is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Nellis Site Lead.

For the past year, the Lockheed Martin team has been working side by side with the Air Force to ensure they are ready for the first class of students slated to begin in January of next year. In order to begin training, a syllabus specifically designed for the F-35A needed to be created. This began with the initial F-35A weapons school cadre coming to Fort Worth to spend time with design and functional experts to learn more about the advanced capabilities of the F-35A.

They also spent a significant amount of time with Lockheed Martin subject matter experts for every system on the F-35A. The in-depth information provided them with enough content to build a shell of what the F-35A Weapons School Syllabus would look like.

The team at Nellis is hitting their stride now completing what they call the live fly where they take the planning and preparation from the past year and validate every single piece to ensure students are receiving the very best training possible.

“We’re heading into uncharted waters, and every day will require steadfast leadership to ensure our 5th Generation capabilities are as lethal and dominating as possible,” said Col. Michael R. Drowley, former commandant of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School.

This unique collaboration between Lockheed Martin and the Air Force is an excellent example of the team doing whatever it takes to support the customer’s various needs.

Shawn O’Hagan is the Lead Field Engineer for F-35 Simulators at Nellis AFB.

“Everybody in this building, from instructor pilots to maintenance technicians and security, we all have to work together every day to make sure we get the mission done,” said Shawn O’Hagan, Lead Field Engineer for F-35 Simulators at Nellis AFB. “Even outside of this facility, working with logistics and the supply team, to make sure we can get parts in and out. It takes a team environment to make sure we can be successful every day. “

The goal is to have a syllabus completely validated and ready for students to begin using in January 2018, when the first six students begin the intensive six-month long weapons school training. The syllabus is so robust that students spend Monday through Thursday flying simulator missions and actual sorties to master all of the techniques. Friday is a day off of flying but they spend the entire day learning the next phase of tactics so they can study over the weekend before Monday missions begin.

The Lockheed Martin team has the responsibility of ensuring the full mission simulators are ready to fly each and every day. It is a vital mission the team will be performing to support the customers growing needs at the weapons school. While the first class is only six students, in the near future the school will double the number of students for each class and eventually graduate 24 pilots per year.

“I’ve been contracting ever since I stepped out of active duty and I don’t think I could get this kind of job satisfaction of any other career I could have,” said Shawn. “I hope I can continue to grow with this program for a long time to come.”