Australia aims to achieve F-35A IOC by December

19 October 2020 (Last Updated October 19th, 2020 11:40)

Australia is aiming to declare F-35A Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by December as the majority of pilots have returned following joint training in the US.

Australia aims to achieve F-35A IOC by December
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Credit: USAF / Master Sgt Donald R Allen.

Australia is aiming to declare F-35A Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by December as the majority of pilots have returned following joint training in the US.

If confirmed, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will achieve the capability ahead of its scheduled timeline.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has returned the majority of its F-35A Lightning II pilots, maintainers and aircraft to its base in Williamtown following joint training with US pilots in Luke Air Force Base (AFB).

The joint training was part of a US effort to strengthen alliances and partnerships with allies through joint training programmes.

Last year, 34 fighter pilots were assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron (FS) and 17 were RAAF pilots. As of this month, there are five RAAF instructor pilots, seven student pilots and two maintainers undergoing training.

RAAF plans to launch its first B-course for student pilot training in January. Training will be provided by instructor pilots who trained at Luke AFB.

In Williamtown, RAAF has one operational and one training F-35A squadron with plans to establish another operational squadron in January next year.

Currently, five RAAF F-35s are assigned to the 61st FS.

Commenting on the joint training, 61st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and graduate of the F-35A pilot training programme at Luke AFB RAAF Maj Christopher Baker said: “I feel like we contribute something to the US Air Force training mission by bringing our own unique perspectives, configuration, roles and environments to the mission, just like the US Air Force mission brings that to us as well.

“I think that’s what’s really useful about it being combined.”

He added that the RAAF and the USAF may work together in a deployed environment in future.