Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs stationed here would take off for their first of hundreds of sorties that year once they had their military flight release Feb. 28, 2012. Marine sorties would add to the count marking a year total of 739 sorties.
“I think overall it was an outstanding year for the 33rd Fighter Wing and all the men and women and the accomplishments we had,” said Air Force Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the wing.
Their success culminated with an Air Education and Training Command ‘ready for training,’ after a 65-day operational utility evaluation ended early December 2012. That allowed the first class of pilots transitioning from legacy airframes to the F-35 to start Jan. 7.
Partnered with the wing, Lockheed Martin recently released what they called the highlights of the F-35 program during the last year. The joint strike fighter’s manufacturer said they delivered 30 aircraft (all three variants) to military based and achieved significant advances in flight test highlighting a year of continued progress. In 2011 they delivered 13 jets.
The 33rd currently houses 22 F-35 for training the U.S. Marines, Air Force and United Kingdom. Lockheed already released photos of the F-35C variants the Navy squadron here will receive soon.
Lockheed Martin’s list of major milestones include some from Eglin:
- U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the end of probation for the F-35B STOVL, nearly one year ahead of schedule.
- The first two international F-35s were delivered to the United Kingdom.
- The first three operational F-35B STOVL fighters delivered in November marked the beginning of tactical operational training at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
- 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., completed its Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) and Air Education and Training Command (AETC) officials announced that the wing is ready for pilot training in 2013. The wing flew more than 700 sorties in 2012.
- Norway procured its first F-35 commencing the largest public procurement project in its history. The event was marked by Minister of Defence Espen Barth Eide authorizing the order for the first F-35A for the Norwegian Armed Forces.
- Luke AFB was selected for F-35A U.S. and international pilot training. The base will receive 72 aircraft for three fighter squadrons.
- Major flight test accomplishments included the first aerial weapons release for the CTOL and STOVL; the F-35A reached maximum high-angle-of-attack milestone in four flights; the first night flight and night refueling missions were accomplished and both the CTOL and STOVL completed air-start testing.
- F-35 program surpassed 5,000 flight hours.
The 33rd FW also lists the following 2012 accomplishments:
- Jan. 11- VMFAT-501 received the first two F-35B aircraft, tail numbers BF-6 and BF-8
- Feb. 24 – VMFAT-501 conducted the F-35B rollout ceremony. Florida Representative Jeff Miller, Mr. Stephens, Lockheed Martin CEO, and Gen Dunford, Assistant Commandant for the Marine Corps attended as guest speakers
- March 6 – Lt Col Eric Smith, 58th Fighter Squadron, Director of Operations, flew the first F-35 sortie in tail number 08-0750, after the 33 FW was issued Military Flight Release and all flight certificates.
- April 10 – Pilots flew first F-35A Lightning II formation flight.
- April 16 – Academic training center begins formal F-35 maintenance training
- May 1 – Navy squadron VFA-101 reactivated at the 33 FW.
- May 22 – VMFAT-501 accomplished the first local flight in an F-35B.
- May 31 – First non-test pilot in the Air Force checks out in F-35 flight operations.
- July 11 – 33 FW accomplished 100th sortie: 74 in F-35A and 26 in F-35B
- July 16 – Maj Jay Spohn became the Air National Guard’s first F-35 pilot and instructor pilot
- July 23 – The first United Kingdom joint strike fighter arrives
- Sept. 10 – Air Force F-35A Operational Utility Evaluation begins
- Sept. 10 – 33rd FW maintainers certify on F-35A engine runs
- Oct. 15 – Air Force Chief of Staff visits F-35 integrated training center
- Oct. 15 – The 33rd FW completes the 500th sortie
- Nov. 16 – Marine Corps Air Station Yuma receives first F-35B
- Nov. 20 – First two Marine Corps Yuma pilots complete F-35 training at Eglin
- Dec. 17 – AETC declares Eglin ready for training
Lockheed also said the goal for their 2012 flight test plan called for 988 flights and 8,458 test points by Dec. 31. For the year, the SDD program flew 1,167 flights and tallied 9,319 test points. The F-35A Flight Science test aircraft flew 291 flights and accomplished 2,573 test points. The F-35B Flight Science test aircraft accomplished 396 flights and 2,443 test points. The F-35C flew 239 flights and tallied 2,247 test points. The Mission Systems test aircraft accomplished 241 flights and 2,056 test points. The F-35B also executed 102 vertical landings.
The cumulative 2012 milestones were achieved through a combination of planned test flights and test points, along with test flights and test points added throughout the year. The flight test program is now more than one third complete in aggregate with the Air Force’s F-35A variant leading the way with 43 percent complete.
“We are completing our third year of on-plan system development performance since the F-35 Program Executive Office completed its Technical Baseline Review in 2010,” said Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed Martin F-35 program executive vice president and general manager. “We fully expect this to continue in 2013 as we begin flight test of the Block 2B mission system software which will ultimately provide the initial war-fighting capability the Marines need for their initial operational capability. This successful system development progress, a maturing production line and further operational base stand up are all strong indicators of the F-35 program’s positive trajectory.”