F-35 maintenance training making progress

WGCDR Darren Clare taxies back to park in A35-002 after his first flight in an F-35A Lightning II
Wing Commander Darren Clare in A35-002 after his first flight. (Defence)

The team charged with bringing home Australia’s F-35A Lightning II in December 2018 has reached a few important milestones, with 27 of the first cadre of maintenance crew completing technical training in May.

Squadron Leader Leigh Tinker, senior engineering officer for the F-35A Transition Team, said he now has 20 personnel stationed at Luke Air Force Base, after initial maintenance training was completed at Eglin Air Force Base.

A number of maintenance personnel have returned to Australia to prepare for the arrival of the aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown.

Most of them will form the core of 3 Squadron when it stands up as the Royal Australian Air Force’s first F-35A squadron, with others posted to 2 Operational Conversion Unit.

Meanwhile, Wing Commander Darren Clare, who will become the commanding officer of 3 Squadron when the unit transitions from the Hornet, has completed his first flight in the F-35A.

“The jet feels very similar to a Hornet in most flight regimes, and it was exciting to take off in an airplane for the first time solo,” said WGCDR Clare, who is still undergoing operational conversion.

“The operations and maintenance teams made sure I flew an Australian aircraft for the flight, and I was also launched by an Aussie crew chief, which made it all the more special.

“I can see the momentum building, and our people will be ready when Air Force receives its next eight F-35As in 2018, as the transition hits full swing.”