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Next-gen training for Australia’s fifth-generation F-35 fleet

Australian F-35A pilots can now conduct multi-ship training missions in the four Full Mission Simulators at the Integrated Training Centre at RAAF Base Williamtown.

Australian F-35A pilots can now conduct multi-ship training missions in the four Full Mission Simulators at the Integrated Training Centre at RAAF Base Williamtown.

This training gives pilots the opportunity to fly more training missions of greater complexity. It is an important part of establishing a sovereign training capability in the lead-up to the anticipated declaration of F-35A initial operating capability in December 2020.

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The officer in charge of the F-35 Integrated Training Centre, Squadron Leader Amanda Norris, said simulating four F-35As airborne at once allowed pilots to train in all F-35A roles in a more realistic formation, maximising the capabilities of the aircraft.

"The simulation of four F-35As being flown together trains pilots to lead and fight as a four-ship formation," SQNLDR Norris said.

She said each of the four F-35As contributed to the simulated formation in a specific manner.

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"This four-ship capability is a key component of our training system. It enables four-ship qualified pilots to instruct and qualify others. This instruction and the mission complexity that can be generated is incredibly realistic. Pilots are able to experience scenarios that can be difficult to simulate outside of an actual warlike environment," SQNLDR Norris said. 

Maintainers also use the Full Mission Simulators for F-35A training, honing their skills in engine ground operator training.

SQNLDR Norris said by January about 100 maintainer students and five pilots would be training in Australia at the Integrated Training Centre.

"Next year we will continue to ensure our training is state-of-the-art and relevant. We will continue to rely on a uniformed and contracted workforce working collaboratively to enable a training capability that is current, flexible, adaptable and responsive to the needs of Air Combat Group and higher Defence priorities," she added. 

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.

For the RAAF, the F-35A's combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.

The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have with a projected life of 30 years in service.

Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, including the US, UK, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan. The first of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are now based on home soil after a period of training and development at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, plus an epic Pacific Ocean crossing in December 2018.

More than 340 F-35s are operating today with partner nations, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.

Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.

Next-gen training for Australia’s fifth-generation F-35 fleet
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