The first two RAAF F-35A pilots to be trained in Australia flew the aircraft for the first time on July 15.
While all RAAF F-35A pilots to date have been trained at the USAF 61st Fighter Squadron’s International ‘schoolhouse’ at Luke AFB in Arizona or at the Integrated Training Centre at Eglin AFB in Florida, this is the first transition course to be run in Australia.
Run by 3SQN at Williamtown near Newcastle, the course was tailored for experienced fast jet pilots who had previously flown fighters.
“The F-35A training is unique in that there is no two-seat variant to aid airborne instruction,” SQNLDR William ‘Gradz’ Grady, a former RAAF F/A-18A/B Hornet and exchange USAF F-22A pilot said in a release. “As a result, we do comparatively more simulator training before flying for the first time. It has been an intensive few months, but I’m happy to say the training is first class.”
The transition course comprised two months of academic and simulator training at the RAAF’s new F-35 ITC at Williamtown, before the first flight.
“Being able to watch the launch of the first two Australian-trained pilots on their first flight was a proud moment,” 3SQN Commanding Officer WGCDR Darren Clare said. “Although we currently still send pilots to the US for training, this shows Australia is quickly becoming self-sufficient and it all contributes to our F-35A squadrons reaching combat readiness as planned.
“It has only been since January that we started testing out how the F-35A integrated with the Australian logistics, base support and local training systems.
“So the credit for today’s milestone goes to all those who have worked tirelessly to ensure the F-35A has had a smooth introduction to service,” he added. “The Air Force’s first pilots to complete a RAAF F-35A Joint Strike Fighter transition course in Australia have flown the aircraft for the first time.”
There are currently four F-35As at RAAF Williamtown, and a further 10 jets at Luke AFB. RAAF F-35A training will be taken over by 2OCU from next year after it relocates to Luke AFB to transition to the jet, and then returns home in preparation to an initial operational capability (IOC) in late 2020.