Luke Graduates First F-35A Initial Qualification Course

U.S. Air Force / 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs // August 06, 2017

Class 17-ABL from the 61st Fighter Squadron made history graduating the first F-35A Lightning II initial qualification course Aug. 5. After eight months of tremendous teamwork from across the 56th Fighter Wing, Team Luke produced six F-35A fighter pilots ready for the combat Air Force.

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Pedro Mota

During the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander, Air Education and Training Command, spoke to the graduates.

“This is a history making moment,” said Roberson. “From my perspective there will be people 20 to 30 years from now who will remember that you were in the first [F-35A Lightning II initial qualification course]. It is really important for you to know that the F-35 is the future.”

During the course, Lockheed Martin instructor pilots taught the academic phase of training consisting of more than 156 events totaling 308 hours. Academics focuses on pilots learning the basic aircraft systems, emergency procedures, local area procedures, mission systems, weapons and tactical employment.

Prior to the first flight in the Lightning II, each student completes 16 simulator events and over the course of the program 46 simulator events occur. The F-35 simulator provides a highly realistic and immersive experience that prepares each pilot for their first sortie in an aircraft.

“Each student flew at least 48 sorties totaling 77 hours,” said Lt. Col. Rhett Hierlmeier, 61st FS commander. “Starting with the basics of taking off and landing, continuing across the full spectrum mission sets, and culminating in our Capstone phase of high-end employment. Along the way, our students dropped inert and live laser-guided GBU-12s, refueled from a KC-135 day and night, and flew low-altitude step-down training.”

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