F-35 Training in High Gear at Eglin

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. // March 27, 2014

Since the first F-35 Lightning II arrived at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in 2011, the base has accomplished more than 4,100 training sorties and has ramped up to 45 aircraft. Now, the 33rd Fighter Wing has reached another major achievement – the qualification of 100 F-35 pilots and more than 1,000 maintainers.

A class of six pilots from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 completed the sequence of F-35B academics and training flights on March 21, bringing the number of pilots qualified by the base to 100. These pilots join the 1,082 F-35 maintainers who are supporting operations, testing and training around the nation.

Also this week, F-35 pilots at Eglin began training for night flying operations. Pilots will focus on pattern work to master take-offs and landings at night. The curriculum also includes simulated weapons deployment using air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting.

"These pilots and maintainers are establishing the initial cadre of trainers that will build a foundation for their respective service's or partner nation's fifth-generation air capabilities," said U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Haas, 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander. "We're hitting our stride as a key training facility for the F-35 program."

“In partnership with the services, our focus is ensuring that F-35 pilots and maintainers are combat ready,” said Mary Ann Horter, vice president of F-35 Sustainment Support at Lockheed Martin. “To maximize the capabilities of this fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 technology suite provides the range of training needed through an efficient mix of simulation and hands-on learning.”

To drive affordability, pilots train with full mission simulators that replicate all F-35 sensors and weapons employment and provide half of the initial qualification flights. Currently, pilots progress from the simulator to six training flights. The number of required simulator and live flights will increase with increased software capabilities.

The maintenance training program also maximizes simulation in the classroom where maintainers develop an in-depth understanding of the F-35 before they head to the flight line.

As the lead F-35 training location, Eglin Air Force Base has qualified pilots and maintainers from the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, the U.K. and the Netherlands. The F-35 military and industry team is currently applying the lessons learned at the base’s Integrated Training Center to launch F-35 pilot training at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Luke Air Force Base in support of the services’ and international partners’ needs.

Learn more about F-35 international training at Eglin AFB by the numbers.