News>U.K. F-35 fleet increases capability at Eglin AFB
U.K. Royal Air Force Sqn. Ldr. Jim Schofield touches down in an F-35 Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 19, 2012. This second United Kingdom F-35B at Eglin AFB will be embedded with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501. It will be used for pilot and maintainer training and for the United Kingdom to conduct operational tests and evaluations. The F-35 incorporates a wide range of new technologies for stealth, multi-mission capabilities and sustainability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Karen Roganov)
An F-16 Fighting Falcon provides a safety escort for two F-35 Lightning II pilots Oct. 16, 2012. The aviators delivered two new joint strike fighters to the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Following the 90-minute ferry flight, Eglin AFB ground crews received the F-35s to prepare them for pilot and maintainer training and for the United Kingdom to conduct operational tests and evaluations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Karen Roganov)
United Kingdom Royal Air Force and Royal Navy aircraft maintainers met the U.K.'s second F-35B Lightning II as it arrived to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 19, 2012. These maintainers are part of the first class of U.K. maintainers attending courses at the F-35 Academic Training Center here. The U.K. maintenance training began Oct. 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Karen Roganov)
by Maj. Karen Roganov
33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/26/2012 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- A second British F-35B Lightning II arrived here Oct. 19, joining the nine A variants of the joint strike fighter flown by the Air Force and the 11 B variants flown by the Marine Corps to become the largest fleet of F-35s in the world with 22 jets.
The first class of United Kingdom Royal Air Force and Royal Navy aircraft maintainers attending courses at the F-35 Academic Training Center met the jet flown by U.K. Royal Air Force Sqn. Ldr. Jim Schofield.
"It's another exciting day for the United Kingdom and the 33rd Fighter Wing as we build up the F-35 force. The two U.K. jets now will become the backbone of test and evaluation at Edwards [Air Force Base] and we will be adding a third next year," said Sqn. Ldr. Jim Schofield. "It was great to see the first course of U.K. maintainers as I arrived to the VMFAT-501."
Service members from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps as well as coalition partners from foreign nations, such as the U.K., learn how to operate and maintain the F-35 through a digital training environment. This kinetic learning system allows the learning to occur through touching and doing, rather than seeing and hearing.
The U.K. aircraft are imbedded in the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, and are used by both countries to conduct F-35 training. The arrival of the jet increases the capability for pilot and maintenance training.
"The fact that we're starting with the same airframe, same formations, same weapons capabilities, I think that already puts us at a better starting point when we show up to a combat theater together," said Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, squadron commander for the 58th Fighter Squadron, of the integration of forces with the F-35.
Later this month, an RAF and RN pilot will begin instructor pilot training, making them the first international pilots trained at Eglin on the fifth-generation, multi-role fighter.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program started in 1997. The program includes plans to replace the Air Force's aging F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Marine Corps' short takeoff, vertical landing AV-8B Harrier and dogfighting and air-to-ground attacking F/A-18 Hornet and the Navy's stock of legacy Hornets.
(Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel Wetzel, Defense Media Activity, contributed to this article)