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Virtual Simulation Training gets student pilots back on track

F-35A Lightning II

An F-35A Lightning II pilot prepares for a flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, July 30, 2020. The F-35A is designed to achieve unprecedented levels of reliability and maintainability, combined with a highly responsive support and training system linked with the latest in information technology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Heather Leveille)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

F-35A Lightning II student pilots from the 58th Fighter Squadron traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to train on an advanced F-35A virtual simulator July 21-24.

“The virtual simulation training provides the 33rd Fighter Wing with advanced training scenarios in a robust threat environment to maximize student training in a short period,” said Maj. Paul Gannett, 33rd Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations.

Approximately 25 personnel attended the training event from the 58th Fighter Squadron, the 33rd OSS, the 81st Air Control Squadron, and the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron. In addition, Airmen from the 457th Fighter Squadron acted as the opposing force in the training simulation.

“This trip had outstanding coordination and support by all of the units involved,” said Gannett.

The 117th Air Refueling Wing provided military transport on a KC-135 Stratotanker refueler to comply with COVID-19 travel and social distancing guidance.

“Standards for social distancing and mask-wearing were strictly enforced throughout the trip, including at the Lockheed Martin plant where the simulators are located,” said Gannett.

In total, they accomplished 136 sorties and over 170 simulation hours. The four training days focused on multiple skill-sets and mission areas critical to the F-35A, with each training day averaging between 10 and 12 hours.

“Student production has fallen behind the timeline because of COVID-19, and this trip made up for two weeks of training,” said Gannett.