It is widely recognised that the F-35 is a step change in operating capability for the Air Force, but preparing both the pilots and supporting ground crew is an equal capability step change; this is where Newcastle based Milskil enters the fray.
Established in 1998 by former fast-jet pilot John Lonergan, Milskil has leveraged the first-hand experience of its managing director and chief executive to position itself as a leading training organisation and Australia's premier fifth-generation pilot and aircrew training organisations.
"We've been involved with RAAF air combat training since 2003 and we've been eagerly awaiting the arrival F-35, which will see Milskil not only providing pilot training, but also ground crew maintenance and support training," Lonergan said.
F-35 introduces a completely new paradigm in aircraft systems, simulators, training technology, enterprise IT and maintenance procedures compared with legacy platforms and all have been enthusiastically embraced by the Milskil F-35 team.
Working in conjunction with the specialised F-35 Integrated Training Centre (ITC), Milskil's central role up until this point has been standing up their local capability to train Australia's future top gun pilots and their supporting ground crew.
The F-35 ITC represents a quantum leap in training technology and Milskil's initial cadre has been busy this year working as part of the F-35 team setting up, testing and familiarising themselves with the state-of-the-art training and training support systems in preparation for the start of RAAF personnel training.
"Our training support team have been busy establishing their respective roles that are vital to the ITC being able to deliver its training outcomes. They deliver a diverse range of critical capabilities across course management and scheduling, configuration management and logistics, with each role fully integrated into the global enterprise," Lonergan explained.
"This is a very exciting time for us at Milskil, we are really looking forward to getting involved with the F-35 once they arrive here and helping to grow the capability of the aircraft as it evolves throughout its service with the RAAF."
In critical milestones, Milskil's maintenance instructor teams are nearing the completion of their training and will shortly begin delivering RAAF maintainer training for the F-35 and the unique requirements presented by the fifth-generation platform and its contributing supporting weapons, logistics and maintenance systems.
Further to this, Milskil's first instructor pilots have now commenced their F-35 instructor pilot training at Luke Air Force Base in the US and will join the Williamtown ITC training team early next year. These pilot trainers are the first Australian contractor pilots to be trained on the JSF and are among only a very small number of non-US contract instructors globally, highlighting the level of trust the Air Force places in the capabilities offered by Milskil.
The company's growing support of the F-35 and the Air Force has seen the company relocate its operations to the Williamtown Aerospace Centre (WAC), which has enabled the company to develop its highly specialised workforce and facility to better support the training requirements of the Air Force.
"We relocated our offices to the WAC last year not only to support the JSF, but to take advantage of the facility as the growing centre of gravity supporting the growing Air Force capabilities at Williamtown and the surrounds," Lonergan explained.
The relocation to the WAC has enabled the company to design a purpose-built facility that could support the company's work with Defence. The relocation has also allowed for closer collaboration and support networks to develop between the various companies supporting both the F-35 and broader Air Force mission at Williamtown.
Supporting the F-35 will provide Milskil with myriad opportunities over the coming decades, as the airframe and capability evolves with the operational and strategic requirements of Air Force, enabling the company to expand and evolve with the aircraft.
"The future is very bright for Milskil on the back of the F-35 and we look forward to contributing to the program as it develops and matures throughout the life of the aircraft service with the RAAF," Lonergan said.