The 500th F-35 pilot across the project has taken flight in the jet after graduating training, marking an important milestone for the project.
The US Air Force have announced that Maj. Chris Campbell, 461st Flight Test Squadron director of operations, an F-16 test pilot with more than 1,000 fighter hours and 245 combat hours began F-35 fighter pilot training at the 33rd Fighter Wing this summer and became the 500th pilot to graduate the programme.
“As a test pilot, working on the F-35 is an opportunity for me to be a real force-multiplier,” Campbell said. “Flying the F-35 has been a long-term goal of mine. I am thrilled to be part of the program and I hope to make a positive impact.”
While training as an F-35A student pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, Campbell completed approximately 200 hours of academics, 14 simulators, a high-speed taxi, and six flights in the aircraft before being deemed qualified say Lockheed Martin.
“As we discover new ways to employ the F-35 based on its expanding capabilities, we have to adapt the way we train our pilots to ensure they meet the needs of our combat air forces,” said Col. Paul D. Moga, 33rd Fighter Wing commander. “The world of fifth-gen tactics is rapidly evolving. It is changing the way we think, train and execute as a joint and multi-national force.”
Since the first aircraft was delivered in 2011, the F-35 integrated training programme has delivered more than 200 additional jets, produced more than 4,500 maintainers, and flown more than 100,000 hours, say the US Air Force.
“The F-35 and the capabilities it brings to the joint fight are key to the Air Force’s ability to dominate in any airspace,” Moga said. “The Airmen we train and graduate today are the finest in the world. Their skills, coupled with the survivability and lethality of this weapon system, will ensure continued air superiority for the U.S., our partners, and our allies for decades to come. Five hundred down, thousands to go.”
“This milestone represents the epitome of a team effort: active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilian, contractor, Air Force and Navy personnel all coming together with a common purpose to accomplish a common mission–train and graduate outstanding professionals for the combat air forces.”