The RAAF has graduated its first F-35A operational conversion (OPCON) class to be conducted in Australia.
The four new pilots came to the F-35A straight from ab-initio training on the PC-9/A and Hawk 127, and completed the six month course with 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU). The graduation Exercise Rogue Ambush held at Darwin in June was the first time 2OCU had deployed its F-35As away from its home base of Williamtown.
Previous RAAF F-35A conversions were conducted with the US Air Force’s 61st Fighter Squadron (61FS) at Luke AFB in Arizona, and there have also been some individual conversions of experienced fast-jet pilots undertaken in Australia by 3SQN and 2OCU.
“I’m constantly impressed by the quality of our pilots,” Commanding Officer 2OCU WGCDR Jordan Sander said in a release. “From their basic flying training, to then being selected for fighter jets, the F-35A operational conversion course was the very last hurdle.
“The pilots had to apply and conduct simulated offensive and defensive manoeuvres, targeting both enemy airborne aircraft and missile systems on the ground,” he added. “I look at how complex our systems are now and I’m just amazed at what they do and how quickly they learn.
“F-35As are an important part of Air Force’s capability and control of the skies, so we need our pilots to be combat ready,” WGCDR Sander said. “These activities require a significant amount of planning and effort. I am grateful we have so many people who are passionate about what we do. It’s such a proud moment to come out the other side and graduate our very first F-35A combat-ready wingmen.”
A RAAF video highlighting the OPCON and Exercise Rogue Ambush can be viewed here.