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'Future Fighters' to complete initial F-35A training

  • Published
  • By Airman Colleen Coulthard
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

58th Fighter Squadron student and instructor pilots traveled to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 2021, to complete their initial qualification training on the F-35A Lightning II.

Eielson AFB offers 58th FS student pilots a new training experience that aims to expose them to the differences and challenges they’ll face at their first operational base in the Combat Air Forces. 

“This learning will be paramount to their abilities to operate as a qualified CAF wingman and be combat mission ready for future F-35 deployments.” said Maj. Erik Gonsalves, 33rd Fighter Wing chief of advanced programs and project officer for Eielson student training.

According to Lt. Col. Brett Robinson, 33rd Operations Support Squadron weapons section, the training these pilots receive allows them to practice low altitude tactical maneuvers through the Alaskan mountain terrain, which offers a unique training environment that cannot be replicated at home station.

58th FS student pilots have already completed seven months of their training curriculum. F-35A IQT includes 159 academic and ground training courses, 44 simulator events and 39 flights, all to ensure required mission sets are accomplished. IQT takes approximately eight months to accomplish with six months spent on the flight line and two months spent completing academic work, simulations and mission planning cells. 

MPCs create detailed mission products with a variety of operational and intelligence information for aircrews flying combat missions. Prior to every mission, the student pilots will be a part of an MPC.

“During the MPCs, the students are presented with a tactical problem, like bombing an enemy target protected by various surface to air threats, and are required to come up with solutions with the assets available to execute the mission,” said Gonsalves.

While at Eielson AFB, student pilots are flying four offensive counter air training missions. OCA missions prepare student pilots to contend with air-to-air and surface-to-air threats. The students are tasked with orienting into the local area and integrating with the KC-135 Stratotanker, F-16 Fighting Falcon aggressors and F-22 Raptors.

“The desired learning objectives for each mission flown are handcrafted by our instructor pilots to focus on student learning and improvement,” said Gonsalves.

OCA is a core mission for the F-35 community and is imperative for the student pilots’ transitions into the operational Air Force.

 “I look forward to going to Hill AFB, so I can integrate into the CAF, then hopefully go overseas and apply all the lessons my instructors have taught me,” said Lt. Ian Woodward, 58th FS student pilot.

The 58th Fighter Squadron organizationally falls under the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Florida. The 33rd FW is a graduate flying and maintenance training wing for the F-35A Lightning II. Annual pilot training yields on average 58 F-35A pilots.