Air Force Pilots to Start Flying F-35s This Year

Well, it looks like it’s actually going to happen. Real Air Force pilots flying real production model F-35s before the year’s end.

From Defense News:

The U.S. Air Force will begin training on new fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft before the end of the year, the program’s top official said.

The 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will take delivery of 20 F-35A-model conventional take-off variant aircraft with Block 1 training software after a brief informal operational evaluation so that instructor pilots can begin their training, said Vice Adm. Dave Venlet, the new JSF program executive officer.

“We’re going to put them in the hands of the fleet and the Air Force is going to be operating [Conventional take-off and landing aircraft] in training at Eglin before the year ends,” Venlet told a luncheon hosted by the National Aeronautic Association.

However, because it is unusual for an aircraft to be delivered to line pilots before formal operational testing is complete, Venlet said that the program will conduct an abbreviated informal test prior to handing over the new fighters.

“It’s not a full operational test, it doesn’t resolve any measures of effectiveness,” he said.

However, it will provide an independent evaluation to the services as to how well the new fighter performs in the real world.

Pretty darn cool considering all the bad news we’ve heard about the airplane over the last year.

Apparently, even the Marines’ embattled B-model short take-off and vertical landing is picking up the pace with 30 vertical landings so far this year. That jet will hopefully conduct sea trials in the fall, according to the article.

Here’s the piece.

  • Curt

    Not just the P-40 and Buffalo, but also the P-39, P-47, P-38, P-51, F4F, Spitfire, F6F, F4U, etc. Properly flown, any of the same aircraft could defeat the Zero, but trying to turn with it at 180kts was suicide.

  • Dave

    I think this is how it’s going to be from now on. Gone are the days of multiple companies bidding for a contract with the best winnning it all and minimum feilding time. At least some lessons will be learned at Eglin, in theory, a second test program. Anything to get the aircraft in oprerational use with the most bang for the buck to the US taxpayer. Sign of the times?

  • ChuckL

    Let’s see now: the F-35 has a cost at the moment of about 85-90% of the cost of an F-22. The F-35 carries half of the total number of A-A missiles. The F-35 range is maybe 80% that of the F-22, The F-35 radar signature is at the minimum 10 times larger than that of the F-22. On full afterburner the F-35 is almost able to keep up with the F-22 on supercruise. So to provide the protection of one F-22, we must have at least 3 F-35s.


  • King Corn

    you kidding me? that’s no match for a P-57 with over-the-horizon-radar and support satellites with rail-guns and other support satellites to condition weather so as to minimize impedence of the projectiles from the rail-gun satellites. right? come on! right?-right? come on! right?

  • bill holloway

    There will be crashes. But what the hell these are volunteer Air Force officers, not valuable Lockheed test pilots. USAF should require Lockheed to put up one mill in trust for the widow & children of these pilots to be paid upon their death. (by a former Captain, SAC)

  • kEN

    The Obama-fighter. We must first put it into operational status to see if it flies.
    Kind of like the health care law….we must pass the health care bill to see what’s in it.
    The Obama Admisistration. Another oxymoron…heavy on the MORON.
    Everything’s bass-ackwards.

  • Ron

    kEN——What you said is sad, but unfortunatly very true !! God help us.

  • Ron BuffJOCK

    KEN: get over it you lost! quit your bitchin bout obama, y,all have blamed him for everthing including wwII “the obama fighter ” gima a break

  • Mark

    MAYBE this is another example of President Obama’s ‘ TIME FOR CHANGE’…sad to put pilot’s into more danger when it hasn’t been fully tested.

  • MARK

    if OBAMA’S best job in life was as an ORGANIZER, I wonder what his worst was? Scary, another example of someone in way over his head. Too bad he didnt’ have a wife like Hillary to tell him every move to make. HAHAHAHA.

    • Bill

      his worst is obviously “President”

  • Gordo

    Let me see, another single engine fighter that WILL cost as much as the F-22. Hmmn! How many single engine airplanes (F-16’s primarily) have we lost over the years? Uh, over 400 for engine problems. Now at 80 to 100 million per. And why is this a good deal? The only reason this jet is being shoved down our throats is because foreign nations are picking up part of the tab! Good thing for Eglin though, because it will be the only job they have after the Test Wing dies!

  • PJW

    How many thousand F-16s were produced before the Blk 30s came along? Fully capable by whos deffinition? Early models were considered better fighters by the pilots opinions.

    • SMSgt Mac

      RE: “How many thousand F-16s were produced before the Blk 30s came along?”
      Counting the YFs and foreign jets, assuming no version overlap, and including the ‘almost there’ Blk25s: ~1805, less than half the total production to-date.
      RE: “Fully capable by who’s definition?”
      By anyone’s definition. The Blk25s came out shortly before the Blk30s, but they didn’t have the bugs worked out of them yet. Block 30s were the first F-16s with full Beyond Visual Range-engagement and night/precision ground/maritime attack capabilities. First with full AIM-7/AMRAAM/AGM-65D/HARM capabilities. First with Seek Talk secure voice comm, and a bunch of other relatively minor improvements.
      RE: Early models were considered better fighters by the pilots opinions.
      Name them (kidding!). A myth propagated perhaps by the even more-mythic Lightweight Fighter Mafia? Until the Blk30, the F-16 was a hot-rod daytime knife-fighter. It is not hard to conceptualize that among the majority of ‘combat’ pilots, they value the capability to fight day or night, visual or beyond, air-to-air and air-to-mud more.

  • Shawn

    Way too many moving parts on that aircraft, way too much money for a single engine platform. ACES II ejection seats are the best !!! The jet is very unstable ! F-15 Crew Chief. F-15’s rule the sky !!!

    • Bill

      Worked on everything from the “Blue” pre-production model to the E-Model. Put in over 20 years on it, 15 on active duty and the rest as a civilian with Lockheed Martin. You’re absolutely right! BEST FIGHTER EVER BUILT—-F-15’s RULE THE SKY. BUILT TO FIGHT WHERE OTHERS FEAR TO FLY.

  • biophysics

    you mean you just find out? you mean you just find out? you mean you just find out?

  • mooney

    This is what happens when you put pilots in charge of large acquisition program instead of acquistion professionals who understand the trade offs of perfromance, cost and schedule. The pilots get what they deserve. The 46 thTest Wing won’t die, just change org structure.

  • Art Frailey

    Who is going to test these? Who usually does? Why can’t the pilots that are going to fly them test them for real? Then they will really know if they are OK? They usually get a lot of practice on the ground in simulators before thy fly anyway. How about experienced pilots teat them that arae going to be training new pilots? I can’t see anything wrong with this. and It will save millions in testing funds>

  • mike

    I’m a big fan of the F-15. I don’t know much on these new F-35’s only that they are unstable. Who cares about this “who issued what” ****.

  • Bob

    Mike - have you seen the McDonnell Douglas video of the F-15 and F-4 taking off at the same time and the F-15 taking a picture of the F-4 breaking ground from 10,000 feet? I’ve been trying to get that video for quite awhile.

  • Wayne

    I think somebody’s brain in Washington needs flight testing.

  • Chuck

    The B-32 was the Dominator

  • michael

    hey what wrong with the 46 test wing i work there?

  • George Smith

    Job security for the Eglin people. I just hope it works!!! A long way from my F-51 and F-80 training .I’ am a retired C141 FE and now my poor old bird is gone. Man
    , would I love to be young again!!

  • Tomas MacDonnall

    As a civilian now (Air Force many years ago), I think it is time for us, the masses, to put full support behind our flyers and give them a fully tested, dependable platform. I think they got rid of Eglin’s F-15’s way too early…. MACDONNALL@AOL.COM

  • carl1310

    They are still getting up to speed on the $140 million F-22.

  • Don

    I’M an old guy and as far as I’m concerned the last real fight was the F-86!!!!

  • USAF Retired

    As much as I would like for this system be a success-as soon as possible-I totally AGREE with your service v. ops testing observation. You must have been a “Bone” (B-1B) maintainer-that is exactly what occurred when that system was “forced” into operational service prematurely. The AF “accepted” the bomber as “operational.”

  • R. P. Walker

    SMsgt Mac looks to be the only commenter who shows some analytical maturity. Let me try to join him. I can claim to be the guy who was tasked with monitoring the first AWACS acft from the time it was a pile of parts to a deliverable airplane sitting on the tarmac. Gen. Skantz was constantly testifying before congress to keep them from killing it and constantly fighting off the wannabe techies who invoked a storm of supposed performance shortcomings. Now look at it decades later. It is a mainstay in the USAF inventory.

  • dan

    The program needs to be cancelled or delayed until the private and government project managers get their act together. Perhaps another 20 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • E Hensen

    Is there anyone out there who has even one positive, non-sarcastic thing to say about this aircraft? You know the F-5/T-38’s that I flew were said to be junk, said to be useless, said to be a waste of further investment, yet somehow, 47 years after it was released to the USAF, it is still flying as a combat aircraft in many countries around the world, still being used as a trainer everywhere, Still being used in NASA and still being used as an aggressor aircraft in Air Force Flag and Navy Top Gun schools, because nothing can touch its maneuverability to this day. We have actually sold some to other countries and bought them back for upgrading and reuse here! Don’t be so quick to judge, all of you armchair Generals. Especially for the Marines the “B” model, as a replacement for the Harrier, is a MUCH NEEDED upgrade. And no one here has taken into account that this A/C was developed as a multi-national role fighter/bomber, for countries that have nothing even close to it’s capabilities. Chill out.

  • RoyBoy

    Tell Em Gator !!


    Shame the F-22 wasn’t made operational when we had it ready in ’92 and delivered it to Clinton. The Skunk works was to build the first 65 that year with a contract for 600 more ready to be signed and already funded. It flew and passed all tests flying in supersonic cruise at low altitude over downtown Atlanta and no one even knew it was so quiet.. He canceled all funding, closed the program and our Skunk work detachment at Carswell AFB. Clinton saved a lot of money, balanced the budget he did. Not hard to do when you don’t buy any bullets, missiles, aircraft, and close bases and reduce numbers of military by large percentages. When the Gulf Wars came it took us 60 days to respond before we could attack because we had ONE missile to launch at them, Clinton had used up the rest in 28 separate engagements while he was in the White House. …and unless you forget, our Iraqi aircraft were flying in the no-fly zone, and our aircraft were repeatedly having missiles fired at them in neutral flight zones in Iraq. Over 30 protests to the UN which were peppered with the words, “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. During the Kuwaiti war, it was all we could do to keep Israel from nuking Baghdad for firing Scud missiles at them with Chemical Warheads on them (also Weapons of Mass Destruction.) During the 60 days that we geared up their was an exodus of trucks 8 lanes wide day and night to Libya carrying every military thing possible. Then amazingly Clinton jumps in the fray that there were never any Weapons of Mass destruction in Iraq, wonder why one of the high cards in the deck was “Chemical Ali”. Possibly for dropping Weapons of Mass destruction on villages and killing tens of thousands of Kurds at a time. Then to top it all off a couple of years later clinton actually files a lawsuit about the fact that we had lost (had stolen back) over a million pound of weapons we had taken from the Iraqis that could only be qualified as weapons of Mass destruction!.

    The F-35 has one problem, the same as the F-22 when it was introduced - it was already built as a prototype way back when.and is now on Block 1 “training software” but its guts are Block 5. Same as the F-22 when it was finally introduced. Same as most aircraft when they are ready to retire.

    Refund fully the Skunk works - produce a decent fighter from this in a year that has supersonic cruise and is stealthy….and introduce then as Block 1 aircraft that will have a planned minimum 15 year lifetime, that we can stretch to 40 at guard units as the new model rolls out.

  • marcus

    Hey, to tell the truth this is news to me too. But, lets give it a try. Do you really think the USAF would put out people in real danger? This program also supports the joint command concept. My opinion only.


    Way to go TOPCAT - if someone thinks that the president (whomever he/she may be) has the time and the technical knowledge to get involved with the selection, procurement, production and testing of any new airframe then they should support the firing of the entire USAF chain of command. Come on lets stop using any issue that comes up as a reason to fire a shot at someone one does not like in the political environment. Obama won’t get credit for it if it is a success and he should not be blamed if it is a failure. That honor goes to the responsible chain of command within the Air Force and the congressional committees that oversee the process.

  • John W (TSgt Ret)

    Folks, This isn’t a Military decision its a POLITICAL one. If it was a Military one the F-35 would be grounded until ALL TESTS were complete and fully vetted. Some Politician (Dem) from the District where this plane (?) is being built wants to go home and tell the little people that ‘See, I did the job that you sent me to do, now just shut-up and bend over.’
    Now, wait until these birds (?) start falling out of the sky and our brave pilots are being killed. Those Politicians (Dem) will start calling for the head of some poor slob that just happened to be dumb enough to go alone with the idea or start blaming the pilot who just following orders to just get into the bird (?) and fly it.

  • wbrenner

    Restart the F-22 Production Line STAT! Per an editorial in today’s WSJ

  • Steve Neal

    WTF,O? I’l fly this computer-guided lawn dart! Just give me secondary (automatic) exjection when she shit-the-bed! I’ll take my lumps from bouncing off the canopy, instead of “going down with the ship”.

  • Crust Old Sergant

    In my short time as an Eagle Keeper, I learned 2 things. First anything with 1 engine, after it looses that engine, has the glideslope of a lawn dart. Second ACES-II “THRUST YOU CAN TRUST” said so over the door to the egress shop.

  • Snake13

    If we think like Old_Bear, Chuck Yeager would have never broke the sound barrier and John Glenn would have never orbited the earth.

  • TMax

    Hey Gordo: Yeah, “good for Eglin”. I’m soooo looking forward to having the overpriced (original 55 mil, now what 120+) under-tested, and really, really loud piece of political playdough fly over my house later this year! They say I’ll need about $55,000 of noise attinuation work to make my home livable once this thing starts flying over every morning. — To Night Stalker: Liked what you had to say! They just can’t seem to get it right, can they? — What exactly is up with these unbridled “cost overruns anyway? Once upon a time, a company submitted a bid, won the contract and delivered the contracted product at the accepted bid-price. Now all I ever read about is “cost overruns”. The “bid” and “contract” are meaningless nowdays, and our leaders just let it roll by every time. — Guess Greed Rules!

  • Mike

    Just try to fly F-15 without electronics. How unstable do you think it would be?” Get ready for malfunctions ,as with every aircraft ever developed.

  • Ken Hackney

    I work at FRC-E, MCAS Cherry Point. We are the main rebuild site for the AV8B, the oldest jet still flying in the 5 branches of the military, and the V-22 Osprey, which has also dominated news recently. Both aircraft went through significant growing pains, especially the AV8B. However, with the upgrades we are able to implement ranging from airframe to avionics, it has come to be a much more reliable, if outdated, workhorse. The F-35B is a welcomed replacement. What concerns me is the cancellation of the GE/RR F-136 Engine. Is P&W’s F-135 Engine in these new F35A’s that are being released? I really don’t understand releasing an aircraft whose powerplant is not fully finished. The RR Pegasus is a very reliable engine.

  • pissed off

    I smell a rat. This has got to do with someone’s nephew who is working in the plant or has a lot of cash tied up in this program!!!

  • BUFFMaintainer

    I agree with Ron BuffJOCK, is there anything that President Obama has not been accused of????

    BUFFMaintainer ret.

  • Richard

    hey, what happened to Luke AFB in Az. I thought they were scheduled to be the training site for these F-35s?