F-35 Fleet Expands at Eglin
2013-06-06 As the USMC expects IOC of the F-35 in 2015, and the USAF in 2016, and the Navy in 2018 or 2019, the fleet is expanding to prepare for this process.
(For the USMC approach to a con-ops driven insertion of the F-35B see the following:
A key center for this is the 33rd Fighter Wing, where the integrated training center is located.
According to a recent press release from the wing:
The largest fleet of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft grew to 25 aircraft as the F-35 Integrated Training Center here welcomed two new Air Force F-35A variants of the multi-role fighter to the Emerald Coast yesterday.
What this means for the 58th Fighter Squadron is the ability to fly an expanded schedule and more readily be able to put student pilots through the F-35 training course, according to Maj. Jay Spohn, assistant director of operations at the 58th Fighter Squadron.
“We’ll have the ability to fly a ‘four-turn-four’ or ‘six-turn-four’,” he said. The numbers indicate how many training sortie flights are accomplished in the morning schedule, then maintained and serviced to be turned back out to be flown for the afternoon schedule.
Currently, the Air Force team at the 33rd Fighter Wing is in the latter part of F-35A Pilot Class Number 4 and has started Class 5. The Marine Corps pilots here are in F-35B Class Number 4 and the Navy has completed one F-35C course and started a second this week. More than 30 pilots from all three variants have been trained at the F-35 Integrated Training Center…..
About 72 pilots from the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy are slated to graduate F-35 transition pilot training this year. This is made possible by a fleet of well-maintained aircraft to meet the training needs.
One such maintainer paving the way for F-35 success is Tech. Sgt. Lance Murphy, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit here. He received one of the two new F-35s and has been tapped to be the dedicated crew chief for that aircraft.
“This is awesome knowing the jet belongs to you,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to know the overall maintenance of this particular jet bearing my name on the side.”
Murphy likened his F-35 maintenance experience to that of auto racing. “Each NASCAR has its own chief and each jet has its own crew chief. There is that same excitement when the jet is maintained and then goes out for a successful flight just like a successful race.”
And so the accomplishments continue each day with the Eglin-based F-35 team be it maintainer efforts or pilot efforts.
“It’s an accomplishment that in less than six months since we started pilot training, we have been able to produce a course as good as any fighter course created in the last twenty years,” said Spohn.
Murphy agreed about the progress. “Each day is something new and it’s awesome to be a part of this.”
At Eglin, the Air Force has 12 F-35A joint strike fighters, the Marine Corps has 11 and the United Kingdom embedded with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron-501 has two F-35Bs. The Navy is slated to get its first two F-35C variants in the next coming weeks.
In the out years, when operating at full capacity, the Eglin fleet will grow to 59 aircraft with about 100 pilots and 2,100 maintainers graduating yearly.