AF Expects F-35 upgrade, 2nd Training Squadron in the Fall

Air Force Times // September 13, 2013

The Air Force’s F-35 program is expected to reach two major milestones this fall: the adoption of an advanced software and weapons system on the single-engine jet, and the beginning of major pilot training at the service’s second base for the fighter.

As of early September, 36 Air Force instructor pilots had finished training on the 14 conventional takeoff models that have been delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The base in August surpassed more than 2,000 combined sorties on Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy variants.

“We are safely operating the aircraft and continuing to increase operations because we have well-trained maintainers and well-trained pilots,” said Col. Stephen Jost, commander of the 33rd Operations Group at Eglin.

Also in late August, maintenance crews at Eglin performed the first weapons load verification on the Air Force variant, loading and unloading laser-guided and GPS-guided bombs and air-to-air missiles. The verification will help officials write the training manuals for loading weapons on F-35s.

“We’re refining technical data that’s already written,” said Tech. Sgt. Lance Murphy, a crew chief in the 58th Maintenance Squadron. “Going in the proper sequence ... walking through an actual, physical load. Engaging munitions in the aircraft and making sure that everything is good to go. Everything works as advertised.”

This will set the standards for operations of live munitions in operational testing, which will then be refined and used for F-35 maintainer training back at Eglin.

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