First RAAF F-35A Pilots Trained in Australia Perform First Flight

The Royal Australian Air Force’s first pilots to complete a RAAF F-35A Joint Strike Fighter transition course in Australia have flown the aircraft for the first time.

Two pilots conducted their first training mission on the F-35A at RAAF Base Williamtown on 15 July after undertaking an intensive two month academic and simulator training program at the base’s Integrated Training Centre.

Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) William Grady, a former F-22 exchange pilot, said the transition course has been tailored to leverage previous fighter experience.

“The F-35A training is unique in that there is no two-seat variant to aid airborne instruction,” SQNLDR Grady said. “As a result, we do comparatively more simulator training before flying for the first time. It has been an intensive few months, but I’m happy to say the training is first class.”

Commanding Officer Number 3 Squadron (3SQN), Wing Commander (WGCDR) Darren Clare, said the 15 July flights marked an important milestone in the F-35A’s introduction to service.

“Being able to watch the launch of the first two Australian-trained pilots on their first flight was a proud moment,” WGCDR Clare said.

“Although we currently still send pilots to the US for training, this shows Australia is quickly becoming self-sufficient and it all contributes to our F-35A squadrons reaching combat readiness as planned. The introduction of a Fifth-Generation aircraft and all of its new systems has been highly complex.”

“It has only been since January that we started testing out how the F-35A integrated with the Australian logistics, base support and local training systems. So the credit for today’s milestone goes to all those who have worked tirelessly to ensure the F-35A has had a smooth introduction to service,” he said.

Australia’s fleet of 10 F-35A aircraft based at Luke Air Force Base and RAAF Base Williamtown have collectively achieved over 2900 hours across more than 1750 sorties since 2014. The F-35A attainment of Initial Operating Capability is on schedule for December 2020.

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