25 Januari 2015
The first two pilots selected to undergo training on the F-35A Lightning II aircraft, Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson (left) and Squadron Leader David Bell, with the Prime Minister, The Hon. Tony Abbott MP. (photo : Aus DoD)
The introduction of Australia’s 72 F-35A Lightning II aircraft into RAAF service is about to move a step closer tomorrow when the first Australian pilot commences training.
Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, Australia’s first F-35A pilot, will commence training for his first F-35A flight tomorrow at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, United States.
“The F-35A will be Australia’s first fifth-generation aircraft and will provide the RAAF with a leading air combat capability. I’m excited to be given the opportunity to take a leading role in its introduction,” SQNLDR Jackson said.
SQNLDR Jackson will undergo an intensive training program before he takes his first flight in the coming months.
“The fifth generation F-35A capabilities represent a quantum shift over legacy fighters. I am looking forward to the training challenge it will present.
“This aircraft will give fighter pilots a level of situational awareness that far exceeds legacy platforms. Experiencing this level of capability first hand is something every pilot dreams of,” he said.
SQNLDR Jackson will have an important future role as an Instructor Pilot for Australian and international F-35A pilots, and was selected for his operational flying skills, extensive experience and leadership.
“It will be a great honour to work and train alongside the United States and other international Air Force pilots,” SQNLDR Jackson said.
The second Australian F-35A pilot, SQNLDR David Bell, will begin his training in mid-2015. SQNLDR Bell is a qualified Test Pilot.
The F-35A (commonly known as the Joint Strike Fighter) will meet Australia’s future air combat and strike needs, providing a networked force-multiplier effect in terms of situational awareness and combat effectiveness.
The F-35A’s combination of stealth, advanced sensors, networking and data fusion capabilities, when integrated with other defence systems, will enable the RAAF to maintain an air combat edge.
The first F-35A aircraft will arrive in Australia at the end of 2018 with the first operational squadron to be established by 2020. The F-35A will replace the aging F/A-18A/B Hornets at RAAF Bases Williamtown (NSW) and Tindal (NT).