F-35 Pilot Training to Start Next Month
The Air Force has declared Eglin Air Force Base “ready” to begin training the first students in the F-35A Lightning II. Four pilots provided a “test case” to evaluate the unit’s readiness:
During the [evaluation], experienced pilots transitioned from the F-16 and A-10 aircraft, to the world’s first multi-role stealth fighter. Two pilots, Maj. John Wilson and Maj. Matthew Johnston were from Eglin’s 58th Fighter Squadron and two, Lt. Col. Brian O’Neill and Maj. Joseph Scholtz and were from operational test units at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Calling the F-35 the “first multi-role stealth” aircraft seems to be an error, since the F-22 Raptor is already a stealth multi-role fighter — though it was arguably not initially designed to be so.
The article indicates the Air Force plans to train 36 pilots in the coming year. Luke AFB in Arizona is also slated to be an F-35 training base.
While it is not addressed here, the plan is presumably for the F-35 to be a traditional pipeline fighter — meaning students will graduate from pilot training and go directly into the F-35, though it is unclear when the first such student will arrive. It wasn’t until 2008 that the first UPT graduates started arriving in the F-22.