News

F-35A Instructor Pilots Qualify in Aerial Refueling

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. // May 21, 2013

The initial cadre of F-35A Lightning II instructor pilots qualified in aerial refueling last week, adding another capability for student pilot training at the 33rd Fighter Wing's F-35 Integrated Training Center here.

"Eleven pilots had flown 14 refueling missions across the boom with the help of a KC-135 Stratotanker based here all last week," said Col. Andrew Toth, the commander of the 33rd Fighter Squadron. "Prior to this, only test pilots had done so."

The pilots discovered refueling the F-35 was an easy process, given the stability of the jet in flight and the preparation they received flying aerial refueling missions during ground school with the high-fidelity F-35 full-mission simulator.

Pilots have said there were times they forgot they were in a simulator, given its realistic feel amplified by a 360-degree view of the air and ground projected around the pilot.

"This was the easiest tanking event I've had in my career," said Toth, who besides spearheading efforts for three branches of service and internationals here is also an F-35 instructor pilot. "The aircraft is very stable and smooth, making it easier to connect with the boom than I had experienced with flying other weapons systems."

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