Wednesday, August 15, 2012

F-35 sorties soar at Eglin AFB

In a sign that momentum continues to build in the F-35 program, more and more sorties are being flown by F-35s based at Eglin Airforce base:

"During our first week of flying in March, we had two flights scheduled. Then in the fourth week of May we had twelve sorties scheduled and eleven flown. Now in August we are planning a standard of sixteen F-35A sorties a week," said Lt Col Lee Kloos, commander of the wing's 58th Fighter Squadron. "In September we will go to a planned twenty-sortie week as our standard."

20 a week, up from 2 a week 7 months ago.

The effect?

[T]he pilots and maintainers at Eglin AFB-home of the 33rd FW-in Florida have shown that the aircraft can fly multiple sorties in the same day. Pilots at the base are also routinely flying two-ship missions, Kloos says.

The yield?

US Marine Corps Col Arthur Tomassetti, vice-commander of the 33rd FW. "As of today we've flown almost 160 sorties between the A and B models. Secondly, we are getting more pilots qualified to fly the F-35A and B variants. The Marine Corps' VMFAT-501 has five pilots flying for the F-35B squadron with the last two pilots in the process of being qualified."

The USAF has three instructor pilots qualified on the F-35A with two more in training.

Col Tomassetti again:

"We are also going through our first software upgrades from the Block 1A to Block 1B in the A and B variants, which brings more capabilities and gets us closer to the full-up fifth generation F-35," he says. "One noticeable example is the voice recognition feature being enabled so there is no need to manually switch between radio channels when talking through the mask."

So progress is obvious and the program seems to be on a healthy and positive pace.  Pilots are becoming qualified at an increasing rate, maintainers are piling up experience and knowledge that will help them train other maintainers, and sorties are proving the aircraft is indeed robust.

Interestingly, it is also a positive argument for concurrency.


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