10 pilots chosen as 1st instructors for F-35

February 5th, 2009  

Topic: 10 pilots chosen as 1st instructors for F-35

10 pilots chosen as 1st instructors for F-35

By Bruce Rolfsen - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 4, 2009 14:37:46 EST
Operational pilots are one step closer to getting in the cockpit of the F-35 Lightning II with the selection of the fliers to stand up the first training squadron.
“Any fighter pilot would be energized to be part of a new aircraft. ... This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Pieper, selected to command the new squadron. Pieper now flies F-16 Fighting Falcons as director of operations for the 310th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
The squadron will not resemble a typical operational or training squadron.
The 10 initial cadre pilots — seven pilots from F-16 cockpits and three pilots from F-15E Strike Eagles — are predominately graduates of the Air Force Weapons School with instructor experience and more than 1,500 hours in fighters. If any of those pilots are unavailable to join the squadron, several pilot alternates, including A-10 Thunderbolt aviators, were selected to fill the spots.
The Air Force Personnel Center declined, as of Jan. 29, to release the names of the pilots chosen by the selection board, citing the program’s sensitivity. However, with the Air Force’s approval, several pilots agreed to talk with Air Force Times.
For Maj. William Betts, an F-16 pilot now attending the United Kingdom’s Joint Staff College, the selection reminded him of a childhood goal.
“I feel like I did when I was 12 and selected for the all-star team,” Betts said. “I hope I get to play more.”
The pilots applying for the F-35 cited a common reason for leaving the warplanes they’ve mastered.
“I’ve always wanted to fly [the F-35]. I want to be on the leading edge,” said Maj. Derek O’Malley, an F-16 pilot selected for the F-35 and now attending the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
Not that O’Malley is criticizing the F-16. “I’ll miss the thrust-to-weight ratio ... the pure dogfighter,” he said.
The Air Force’s goal is to open the squadron in October and begin training students in 2010, Pieper said. The squadron’s first mission will be instructing other groups of pilots assigned to be trainers.
The lieutenant colonel acknowledged there could be delays if the F-35’s testing falls behind schedule and operational jets are not available for the school.
“There are still a lot of milestones,” Pieper said.
The Air Force plans to field more than 1,750 Joint Strike Fighters over the next two decades at about $80 million each, using the planes to replace F-16s and A-10 Thunderbolts.
Today, only test pilots fly a handful of F-35s, primarily out of Lockheed Martin’s plant in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 2009, another nine planes should begin flying, the Air Force officer overseeing F-35 development, Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, said during a Jan. 15 briefing. Operational jets for training should arrive in 2010, and about 144 planes a year should be rolling out of the factory by the end of 2013.
The Defense Department intends for Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to be the home of the F-35 joint formal training unit where Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots will get their introduction to the jet.
Concerns about the F-35’s noisy engine — twice as loud as an F-15, according to the Air Force — prompted some civilian leaders in communities adjacent to Eglin to complain about the expected noise.
Davis said the service is looking at adjustments to flight patterns and other measures to reduce the noise impact. Although Davis is leaving the JSF program in April, his new job as commander of the Air Armament Center puts him at Eglin, where his office will be about a mile from the F-35 training wing.
‘It’s going to change things’

For the time being, basing and noise issues are not the primary concerns of the instructor cadre.
In some ways, the F-35 is like other fighters — it can fly 9 G turns and has a 20mm gun.
But there are flight performance differences. Pieper cited the F-35’s ability to carry all its weapons and fuel inside the fuselage, a feature that will create less wind resistance than an F-16 flying with bombs, missiles and fuel tanks under its wings.
The features that advance the F-35 beyond even the F-22 Raptor are the plane’s avionics and sensors and how information is displayed to the pilot.
“It is going change things. It is going to reshape things,” Davis said.
The F-35’s avionics are 20 years beyond what F-16 pilots are used to, said Maj. Chad Lewis, a Falcon pilot assigned to the 56th Operations Support Squadron at Luke who was picked for the F-35. Today, an F-16 pilot spends a lot of time fusing together cockpit information collected by 1970s and ’80s technology, Lewis said. The F-35’s avionics do much of the fusing itself, collecting and analyzing information from its digital sensors and other sources, he said.
A challenge for the instructors is making sure pilots are getting the right mix of skills to fly the new jet and master the information fed to them, that they do not take old practices and simply re-create them in the F-35.
“We can’t put old wine in a new bottle,” O’Malley said.
Maj. Dan Clayton, an A-10 pilot with the 613th Air Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is an alternate for the F-35 squadron. Clayton pointed out that soldiers will expect an F-35 pilot flying above them to be as knowledgeable about ground operations as an A-10 pilot.
“The A-10 community doesn’t want to lose 30 years of tactical experience,” said Clayton, who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for a 2007 rescue mission in Afghanistan.
While the basic curriculum will be set when the cadre arrives later this year, Pieper said he expects the squadron will recommend adjustments as instructors see how well the course covers the F-35’s roles.

February 5th, 2009  
Very exciting news, so when will the F-22 be used operationally, I believe that there are 180 or so in service already. When I hear that they've done a mission, then I'll really get pumped about the Lightning II
February 6th, 2009  
I thought the F-22 had dropped bombs in Afghanistan...
February 6th, 2009  
My info is that they've flown around a US airfireld doing circuits and bumps, but then again that's what I've been told so I'm not swearing it in court - not unless I can be made a Senator first.
February 7th, 2009  

Topic: F-22

mmarsh there has been no publicly release information on any F-22 dropping bombs in combat.
February 8th, 2009  
I must be mistaken then...

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