A four-ship of F-35A Lightning IIs returns to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., after a sortie Feb. 1, 2013. Pilots with the 33rd Fighter Wing began flying the formation for the first time at Eglin AFB last week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Edward Schmitt)
A four-ship of F-35A Lightning IIs flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 1, 2013, before returning to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Pilots with the 33rd Fighter Wing began flying the formation the first time here last week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Edward Schmitt)
by Maj. Karen Roganov
Eglin Air Force Base Public Affairs
2/6/2013 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Increasing capability is becoming routine for the F-35 Lightning II team.
The 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit produced a four-turn-four for the 58th Fighter Squadron flying Jan 31.
"The pilots flew four F-35As in the morning and the maintainers performed routine maintenance for airworthiness after landing," said Col. Andrew Toth, the commander of the 33d Fighter Wing and one of the aviators in the formation. "Then the crew chiefs 'turned' them around so the four jets could be flown in the afternoon."
That was the first F-35 four-turn-four at the wing. Following up the successful flights, the team did the same Feb. 1 with a four-turn-two. During the Jan. 31 training flights, the pilots were using their advanced radar systems to track F-16 Fighting Falcon "adversaries" over the Gulf of Mexico.
Additionally, the maintainers had spare F-35As ready to go in the event of any issues in flight proving their ability to prepare the Air Force's newest fighter jet for basic pilot training.
While turning jets and flying multiple aircraft in formation is standard operations at an established flying training unit, for the 33d Fighter Wing, it was another step forward to self-sufficiency. Subsequently, it boosted morale.
"It was good to pull that off last week knowing recent weather can cancel flights," said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Wheeler, the production superintendent with 58th AMU. "I can't control the weather ... everything else I control. The jets took off without any issues, the pilots flew their scheduled times. They all landed safely and the aircraft downloaded correctly."
Unique to the Joint Strike Fighter, of which the F35A is a variant, the downloaded data is inputted into the autonomic logistics information system that tracks the health of the jet in a computer based diagnostics and logistics system.
Contracted logistic support by Lockheed Martin is steadily giving way to 58th AMU crew chiefs as the Airmen become more proficient in maintaining the F-35A. Lockheed Martin will continue to support other variants and international partners.
2/11/2013 11:52:47 AM ET The jet taking the picture was part of the adversary formation during the tactical portion of the mission. The picture was taken on Return to Base or RTB. Also no animals were harmed during the filming of this formation.
2/8/2013 1:03:44 PM ET Great pictures great airplane Love the F-35 and what it brings to the fight. Hey Sean AAFB lighten up will ya Geeze...
2/8/2013 9:20:33 AM ET Nice figure-four formation. It's good to see our pilots training in our newest fighter. Go Air Force
Willie Jones Jr., Scott AFB IL
2/7/2013 4:28:38 PM ET Really Sean That's all you can think of That's the problem with narrow-minded individuals who fail to see the bigger picture.
Chris, Tyndall AFB
2/7/2013 1:41:18 PM ET Since the bulk of our domestic popmedia is grounded in utter failure and hate of our American culture including a strong and victorious military it bothers me not at all that our U. S. Air Force uses their granted assets to properly release evidence of their successful constitutionally mandated missions.
StuMarsez, Kelso Washington
2/7/2013 12:15:03 PM ET @ Sean they were going to fly the sorties anyway so quit whining and man up
Bob, South Carolina
2/7/2013 11:57:14 AM ET Yeah Sean cause Fighters never ever flyin in four-ship formations and test aircraft are never followed by a chase plane.
AH, Hill AFB
2/7/2013 10:55:57 AM ET I'm going to hazard a guess that it cost less to produce this photo than it does to sponsor a NASCAR driver. Plus you can chalk up this flight as training.
2/7/2013 10:43:20 AM ET What a great way to show potential adversaries that the USAF is a force to be reckoned with. Our allies can see this and be comfortable with our readiness. How much did it cost to send up and additional aircraft on a training mission with a photographer in the back seat Whatever the cost I'm sure it was worth it.
Mark - Retired MSgt, Columbus Ohio
2/6/2013 9:16:49 PM ET I wonder how much this photo-op cost us. This is the problem with the AF a culture of waste. We just don't think there is anything wrong with it and in the end we will pay.