The US Air Force (USAF) has opened the F-35 Lightning II Academic Training Centre (ATC) at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona, US.

Built by Archer Western, the $47m architecturally and technological advanced facility will provide sophisticated training for the US and allied F-35 joint strike fighter pilots.

US Army Corps of Engineers 60th commander colonel Kimberly Colloton said: "At more than 145,000ft2, this facility was designed to house a dozen full mission simulators and classrooms to train US pilots and pilots from around the world."

Lockheed Martin, along with Luke AFB personnel has already started outfitting the inside of the building with furniture, phones and computers. He will follow this up with more advanced equipment, in the coming weeks, such as classified areas and simulators.

According to Lockheed, the pilots will train in full mission simulators that replicate all F-35 sensors and weapons employment and also provide half of the initial qualification flights.

US Air Education and Training Command commander, general Robin Rand, said: "About a third of the flying time we were going to have to do out on the flightline, we will now be able to do in the simulators here."

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"This facility was designed to house a dozen full mission simulators and classrooms to train US pilots and pilots from around the world."

In turn, the saved flight hours are expected to save money by reducing the wear and tear on aircraft and using less jet fuel, among other cost reductions.

The first batch of pilots are scheduled to begin training in the ATC in early May 2015.

Luke AFB has been named as an F-35A training site for ten foreign countries on three continents ranging from Canada to Turkey to South Korea and is set to receive 144 of the fifth-generation fighters. The base currently hosts an Australian representative and is awaiting the arrival of the country’s pilots and aircraft by the beginning of 2015.

Meanwhile, Norway and Italy are expected to join the next US F-35 squadron at the base when it starts operations in spring 2015.

Image: US Air Education and Training Command commander general Robin Rand cuts the ceremonial ribbon marking the completion of the academic training centre at Luke Air Force Base. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / airman 1st class James Hensley.

Defence Technology