F-35: new plane, new unit

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F-35: new plane, new unit

Story by: Belgian Defence

The Belgian F-35 Conversion Unit settled at its new base, Luke Air Force Base, at the end of July. Report from the unit responsible for training the new generation of pilots and technical staff required to fly the F-35A.

After a period of intense preparations in Belgium, the first members of the BEL F-35 Conversion Unit, BEL F-35 CU for short, left for Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States at the end of July. A metropolis in the middle of the desert with peak temperatures above 45 °C.

Integrated into the American 312 Fighter Squadron

"The new Belgian unit is integrated into the American 312 Fighter Squadron," explains Lieutenant Evelyn Gravez. "Led by American Lieutenant Colonel Jason 'Chill' Wall, assisted by Belgian Major Airman Pierre-Yves' SO6' Libert, it is composed of American and Belgian soldiers and took up residence in temporary facilities," says Lieutenant Evelyn Gravez.

The communications manager of the Belgian detachment continues: "With a new unit, some difficulties naturally arise, but through good coordination with both the Belgian Defense and the USAF, these are slowly but surely resolved. In 2025, the BEL F-35 CU will move into the new building, where we can expect not only renovated classrooms but also a new Belgian Heritage Room. A piece of Belgium in the USA."

The detachment is currently busy preparing for the arrival of the first Belgian F-35A aircraft and trainees. A total of 48 pilots, 14 flight simulator instructors, and 120 technicians will pass through for training or conversion to the state-of-the-art F-35A in the coming years.

Pride and Eagerness

"The final measures are being taken to facilitate both aircraft and trainees from February 2024, in collaboration with the various services of Luke Air Force Base and the team from Eglin Air Force Base," the lieutenant concludes with satisfaction. The impressive flight line of Luke Air Force Base, with more than 110 F-35s, appeals to the imagination, and we can't wait to see the Belgian F-35A among them. We are proud to be part of this extensive transformation program in the history of our Belgian Air Component."

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