First class of Norwegian, Italian F-35 pilots begins

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Photo by Airman 1st Class RIDGE SHAN

The first class of future F-35 Lightning II instructor pilots from Norway and Italy began their training Sept. 21 at Luke Air Force Base.

The pilots, from countries partnered with the United States in the procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will learn how to operate the advanced aircraft under the instruction of pilots from the 56th Training Squadron.

“We are proud and excited to begin this next phase of F-35 training at Luke with Italy and Norway joining Australia as our partner nations, alongside Americans, to become the world’s greatest F-35 pilots,” said Lt. Col. Michael Dunn, 56th Training Squadron commander.

With the advanced facilities offered by the 56th TRS, the students will learn advanced flight techniques, piloting skills, and safety procedures in classrooms filled with high-tech simulators and presentation equipment.

While the 56th TRS will handle the pilots’ academic development, the 61st and 62nd fighter squadrons will oversee the pilots’ administrative needs and take over instruction once the pilots enter the cockpit of an actual F-35 for the first time.

“We will train instructors that will be stationed here at Luke on a three-year basis, and then we will send pilots through a transition program,” said Lt. Col. Martin Tesli, 62nd Fighter Squadron instructor. “Norway will also send maintenance personnel through Luke for some training on the F-35 starting next year.”

When these pilots return home, they will be equipped and prepared to help develop the training programs of their own air forces and will help pioneer the next generation of global F-35 pilots.

“We recognize the important strategic role Luke has in forging relationships that will bind our nations as strategic partners with a common mission of securing peace and settling any future conflicts
that challenge this peace,” Dunn said.

“What happens here at Luke is the most important event in the Royal Norwegian Air Force right now,” said Maj. Gen. Per-Egil Rygg, Royal Norwegian air force chief of staff. “You are building the future of our air force.”