From ‘Nose to Tail’ – Training Matters

From ‘Nose to Tail’ – Training Matters

More than 1,000 F-35 Pilots and 9,000 Maintainers Graduate from the F-35 Training System


Great fighter pilots and maintainers aren’t just born – they’re trained. In March, Lockheed Martin trained the 1,000th pilot and 9,000th maintainer for the F-35 program.

“These milestones are a testament to the maturity and capability of the F-35 global training enterprise,” said Chauncey McIntosh, Lockheed Martin, vice president of F-35 Training and Logistics. “Our mission is to produce world class pilots and maintainers around the world.”

One Seat, Many Missions

Captain Craig “Chuckles” Turner, USMC, assigned to VMFAT-501 at MCAS Beaufort became the 1,000th pilot to fly the F-35.

Captain Craig “Chuckles” Turner, USMC, posing with the F-35 at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.  Photo Credit: United States Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Aidan Parker

For Captain Turner, being a Marine and aviator is practically in his DNA. A third-generation pilot and the brother to a 25-year Marine veteran, Captain Turner continues the family legacy of military aviation flying the F-35B. 

Being a part of the F-35 program has made a lasting impact on Captain Turner. “The resources and talent in all aspects of this program are truly impressive,” he said. “It has been humbling to see the progress being made in this program as everyone’s efforts come together.” He’s flown different aircraft for the last ten years, but the F-35 isn’t like any other aircraft he’s commanded before. 

The first time a pilot flies in the single-seat F-35, he or she flies alone.

At any given moment, an F-35 pilot may need to penetrate sophisticated enemy air defense and find and disable threats. Thanks to the F-35’s fifth-generation capabilities such a stealth, advanced sensors, sensor fusion and networking capabilities this can be accomplished. But how do you prepare pilots for these situations? The answer is training.

Simulation plays a prominent role in F-35 training, more so than legacy platforms. Because of the advanced capabilities of the F-35, it is not possible to adequately challenge pilots in the live environment. With simulation, we are redefining how pilots train to provide the range of experience required to maximize the F-35’s 5th Gen capabilities.

The F-35 presents new ways to tactically employ and requires pilots to master new competencies. Pilots train for a broad range of air-to-air, air-to-ground and electronic warfare missions in the simulator.

The fidelity of the Full Mission Simulators currently allows about half of initial training flights to be accomplished virtually. The syllabus includes technology-driven academics, flights in the Full Mission Simulator and live flights in the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin is providing F-35 pilots the training they need to fly safely and confidently to conduct their missions - the first time and every time.

The Flight Line’s Mission Makers

Airman First Class Benjamin Missel, USAF, assigned to the 359th Training Squadron at Eglin AFB became the 9,000th maintainer to maintain the F-35.

A1C Benjamin Missel posing with the F-35 Landing Gear Trainer on Friday, Mar. 13 at Eglin AFB, Florida. Photo Credit: United States Air Force TSgt Nancy Falcon

A Nevada native, Airman First Class Benjamin Missel is currently stationed at Luke AFB, Arizona for follow-on maintenance training. Next, he’ll be permanently stationed at Hill AFB, Utah as a reservist. Missel chose the maintenance career field before attending basic training. He’s interested in becoming an officer and going to pilot training in the future.

Behind every pilot’s mission are the maintainers who make it possible. These men and women repair, inspect and modify the aircraft to ensure safe and effective functioning during flight operations. They are trusted advisors and analysts who gather flight data to make informed decisions letting F-35 pilots know their aircraft is fit for flight.

Because of the aircraft’s computing power, F-35 maintainers must bring a high level of technical expertise to their jobs. Maintainers rotate from the classroom to training devices to develop an in-depth understanding of the F-35 weapon system. 

The mix of simulation and flight line training varies per maintenance specialty. Currently across all disciplines, 70 percent of training occurs during computer-based courses and hands-on exercises with simulators.

Aircraft readiness also benefits with simulation-based training as some training tasks are intrusive, like removing and replacing components, and can render an aircraft non-mission capable until the training is complete. In this sense, the virtual training preserves aircraft readiness and produces a warfighter that is ready to support the unit’s mission sooner.

A Growing Enterprise

More than 9,000 maintainers and 1,000 pilots have graduated from the F-35 Training System to date. Thirteen Military Services and 10 nations are currently training – the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, the U.K. Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, Australia, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and South Korea.

“This program will continue to grow as more Foreign Military Sales customers around the globe procure the F-35,” said F-35 Training Operations Manager David “Sly” Fox. “The key to success for our training systems is to continue to look at technological advances that will enable us to efficiently update our training capability to mirror the increased capabilities of the F-35 Air Vehicle.” 

Lockheed Martin is now working to connect F-35 Full Mission Simulators to a number of military training networks at the USAF weapons school this year, enabling F-35 pilots to train across locations and with other platforms. This Distributed Mission Training (DMT) capability for the F-35 creates interoperability across military platforms for continuation training and large force exercises, all while presenting a train-as-you-fight environment. 


Do you have what it takes to train the next generation of F-35 pilots and maintainers?