Australian F-35A pilot and Australian Joint Strike Fighter paired for first time

12:42:00 AM
FLORIDA, -- In an historic milestone, an Australian Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has taken to the skies with an Australian pilot in the seat for the first time.

Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson is the first Australian F-35A pilot to be qualified and until now had been flying United States JSF aircraft at their Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

In December 2014 the Australian aircraft were flown to the F-35A International Pilot Training Centre at Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix, Arizona from the Lockheed Martin production facility in Texas. Here they have formed part of a pool of aircraft where F-35A pilots from partner countries will be trained until the aircraft are integrated to their respective home countries.

Australia’s JSF Division Program Manager, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Deeble said Australia’s first two aircraft are scheduled to arrive at RAAF Base Williamtown at the end of 2018.

“We are now sharpening our focus on all the areas that need to be ready to support the JSF in Australia such as training, maintenance facilities, workforce planning and industry participation,” said Air Vice-Marshal Deeble.

“The JSF Program is gaining significant momentum with some tangible milestones achieved including the first two Australian aircraft delivered and flying, and the first Australian pilot
qualified,” said Air Vice-Marshal Deeble.

“We are working with Air Force, Defence industry and the United States F-35 Joint Program Office to ensure we deliver a first class sustainable air combat capability to the Australian Defence Force,” said Air Vice-Marshal Deeble.

First Australian F-35A pilot, Squadron Leader Jackson said he was glad to be at Luke Air Force Base as part of the international team at the F-35A International Pilot Training Centre.

“My focus is on representing the RAAF as a valuable partner in the F-35 enterprise," said Squadron Leader Jackson.

"It's very exciting to finally be at Luke Air Force Base with the 61st Fighter Squadron and to get to fly an RAAF F-35A. Whilst I'm told that all the F-35s are the same, it's awesometo finally go flying in a jet that has 'Skippy' painted on the side,” he said.

Later in the year SQNLDR Jackson will be joined by SQNLDR David Bell, Australia’s second qualified F-35 pilot and instructor.

Australia has committed to seventy two F-35A aircraft, which will provide Australia with a fifth generation aircraft at the forefront of air combat technology.

The introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter is part of a broader plan to transform Air Force into an integrated fifth generation fighting force for the future.

Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson first Australian F-35A JSF aircraft pilot at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

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