Philip Smart | Adelaide
Australia’s first F-35A pilot, Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, took his first flight in an F-35A aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, United States on March 17.
He flew a United States Air Force F-35A aircraft from the Eglin test and evaluation base, as the Australian F-35A aircraft are currently located at Luke Air Force Base, in anticipation of the opening of the international pilot training centre in mid-2015.
Squadron Leader Jackson will continue his intensive training program over the coming months.
Eglin is responsible for the development, acquisition, testing, deployment and sustainment of all air-delivered non-nuclear weapon and tests navigation and guidance systems and command and control systems for the US Air Force.
It is home to the 96 TW test and evaluation wing and training squadrons for the US Air Force, Navy and Marines, all of which are heavily involved in training for introduction of the F-35.
Australia’s first F-35A flew in October last year and there are now two at Luke Air Force Base.
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 F/A-18A/B Hornets at RAAF Bases Williamtown (NSW) and Tindal (NT).