Deliveries of early production-model F-35A Joint Strike Fighters to Eglin Air Force Base have resumed now that the entire F-35 fleet has been cleared to fly again. This picture shows production jets AF-10 and AF-11 rolling into Elgin while accompanied by a pair of F-16s on Aug. 31. It’s always interesting to see the two generations of fighters flying together.
AF-10 and AF-11 are joining AF-8 and AF-9 as training jets for the thousands of maintainers and pilots from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and seven F-35 partner nations who will pass through the JSF schoolhouse at the Florida panhandle base. These four planes are the first of a total of 59 JSFs that will be flown by the Eglin-based 33rd Fighter Wing. While the JSF fleet has been cleared to fly again, the four Elgin jets will only be used for maintenance training “until all certifications are complete,” according to an Air Force announcement of AF-10 and AF-11’s arrival. It provides no further detail about what these certifications entail. The jets at Eglin are part of the fourth batch of so-called Low-Rate-Initial Production planes. This means they aren’t yet equipped with some of the defining features of the F-35 such as the still-in development Block III software — or even Block II software — package which will be rolled out later in the decade.