News>F-35A reaches 'huge milestone' in program development
The F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter lifts off for its first-ever training sortie March 6 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. It’s the first flight of any 33rd Fighter Wing F-35 since their arrival to the base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Randy Gon)
Lt. Col. Randal Efferson, center, and Staff Sgt. Lemuel Velazquez, left, explain to evaluators how the F-35 Lightning II helmet is custom fit to the pilot’s head. Velazquez said the key elements of the helmet are fully incorporated so the pilot can more effectively focus on his tasks and avoid cockpit distractions. Efferson is the deputy operations group commander, 33rd Fighter Wing and Velazquez is an aircrew flight technician, 33rd Operations Support Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Major Karen Roganov)
by Chrissy Cuttita
Eglin Air Force Base Public Affairs
9/9/2012 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Air Force officials begin their F-35A Lightning II Operational Utility Evaluation Sept. 10, an instrumental step in beginning Joint Strike Fighter pilot and maintenance training for the service.
Two 33rd Fighter Wing pilots at Eglin AFB, Fla., along with two Air Force test pilots, will conduct the review expected to last approximately 65 days.
"The start of the OUE is another huge milestone for the Air Force and the program as a whole," said Col. Andrew Toth, 33rd Fighter Wing commander. "We've been preparing for this event since the arrival of our first aircraft in July last year. So far, the men and women of the 33rd Fighter Wing have proven we can successfully execute safe and effective flying operations in addition to academic training."
Since February's Military Flight Release, 11 experienced fighter pilots checked out in basic F-35A operations so they can be prepared to be the military's first cadre for the fifth generation fighter.
Maj. John Wilson and Maj. Matthew Johnston, the 33rd FW pilots going through the evaluation, are ready to be taken through a rigorous process where data will be collected from all facets of JSF training - maintenance, classroom, simulator and flights.
Leaders at the 33rd FW are confident their team of Airmen, Navy, Marines, contracted partners and civilians are ready for the next milestone in the nation's next half-century of airpower dominance.
"We are ready for the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center to give us an outside look on the way we conduct our mission," said Toth. "At the conclusion of the evaluation we should receive the Air Education and Training Command's approval that states we are 'ready for training'."
This milestone for the Air Force will be a precursor to training other services and allies. The
wing is responsible for F-35 pilot and maintainer training. Initially, 59 aircraft and three flying squadrons, one for each service/aircraft variant, will be established at Eglin.
The 33rd FW has flown more than 200 JSF sorties, both A and B variant, increasing pilot and maintainer familiarity with the aircraft, exercising the logistics infrastructure and continuing to develop aircraft maturity. These initial F-35A flights were limited, scripted and conducted within the restrictions and stipulations made in February's military flight release.
Now that release has been updated for OUE, necessary joint program office and AFOTEC formal readiness reviews have been completed and the AETC local area operations metrics and safety reviews all support the Air Force readiness to execute OUE safely and effectively, service officials said.
9/14/2012 7:16:37 AM ET @Joe......Jerry is correct. Our development folks have already been thinking and designing the next gen fighter beyond the F35. I'm sure when the time comes to procur these new aircraft it will cost the taxpayers almost a billion dollars per copy. Everything about government acqusition is slow except for the government acquiring GM ,the banks, etc, in the bailouts of course.
9/12/2012 5:42:25 PM ET @Jerry... how can you be so sure we're going to need a replacement It's not even fully deployed and you're already thinking about when we're going to get another new fighter. Let us focus on F-35 and once it's all done and out of the way then start thinking about a new acquisition program and the next new air craft. Also I'm pretty sure we're more than capable of handling the skies with the aircraft we have now. Everything needs reform but for now this program is getting the job done.
9/11/2012 2:07:33 PM ET By the time this airframe is fully deployed it will be 20 years out of date. The concept was started in the 1980s and the competition was in 2000. So it should be fielded by 2020 and by then the next generation of fighter aircraft will be rolling off the assembly lines in China and India and the US won't be able to update our aircraft for another 30 years after that. The US needs a smarter and quicker acquisition program. By putting so much money and numbers into this aircraft, the Department of Defense has bet the farm for the next 30 years on this airframe because we won't be able to afford a replacement until 2050 at the earliest.