F-35A pilot Lt. Col. Mike Ebner of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., preflights his jet before flying a local training mission in September. (Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock / Air Force)
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The F-35A pilot school is open.
Gen. Edward Rice, commander of Air Education and Training Command, announced today that Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is ready to start training pilots in the Air Force's variant of the Joint Strike Fighter beginning next month.
With training beginning in 2013, the Air Force is tentatively planning initial operating capability by 2016 when the first operational base opens, wing commander Andrew Toth said.
An AETC Joint Operational Test Team conducted an operational utility evaluation this fall, and presented its findings to Rice. The OUE lasted 46 days and focused on classroom and simulator training, along with six flights.
"The preliminary results … are robust enough to conduct the planned pilot transition and instructor upgrade courses," Rice said in a release.
The training for next year will include six classes of six students throughout the year, according to AETC. It will have a full capacity of 100 military pilots and 2,100 maintainer students. The Air Force plans open a pilot training center at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., in 2015.
Toth said one Air National Guard pilot has gone through F-35 training, with another guardsman and reservist coming in the future. The current plan is to have two guard pilots and two reserve pilots at Eglin at one time, Toth said.
More than 500 maintainers from all U.S. services and the Royal Air Force have gone through the integrated training center at Eglin, with 64 additional maintenance personnel currently in training, Toth said.