The Air Force’s first F-35 Lightning II basic flight course class took to the skies for the first time as they entered the live flying portion of their training Feb. 8, 2017.
The B-course students, training under the tutelage of the experienced instructor pilots of the 61st Fighter Squadron, will become the first purely operational combat F-35 pilots in the Air Force.
“It was just an incredible feeling accelerating away from the runway for the first time,” said a student. “I hope to always be able to look back at this day and recognize just how incredible it was.”
After approximately two months of classroom academic instruction, the student pilots are now in the flightline phase of their training syllabus, where over the course of the next 6 months they will learn the skills necessary to perform basic air-to-air, air-to-ground, and low-visibility combat flying.
“Right now they’re learning how to take off, how to land, and how to fly by instruments so that they’re able to get back to ground safely in inclement weather,” said Maj. Joshua Larsen, 56th Fighter Wing executive officer and instructor pilot. “After that, they progress into mission sets, in which they will learn both basic fighter maneuvers and advanced combat maneuvers, and build off of those things to learn how to perform complex missions.”
Upon completion of their training, the pilots will be stationed with operational F-35 squadrons around the world, where further advanced training will continue to provide them the capabilities and knowledge to deploy and fight at a moment’s notice.
“When they arrive at their follow-on base, they’ll get mission-qualification training, after which they will become a mission-ready wing,” Larsen said. “It’s a big deal to be able to train pipeline students on the F-35 and know that they’ll soon be mission-ready when they walk out of here. It’s a unique opportunity and it’s an exciting time to be in the jet.
The 62nd FS is also scheduled to receive and begin their first B-course class later this year. Luke, as the largest F-35 base in the world, will eventually host a planned six F-35 squadrons with 144 total aircraft.