RAAF completes US-based F-35A training mission
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35A Lightning II pilots, maintainers and aircraft have begun returning to Australia from Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in the US following the completion of all training milestones.
The RAAF began training at Luke AFB with the 61st Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit in December 2014 with two F-35s. Since then, 34 Australian pilots and 16 instructor pilots have earned their certification, and as of January 2020 the RAAF owns 20 F-35s.
From now, Australian pilots and maintainers will train in Australia; however, they will remain regular visitors to Luke as it is the RAAF’s F-35A delivery point, and Australian pilots will return several times a year to ferry the country’s new fifth generation fighters home to Australia. The ferrying missions will continue until the RAAF receives its last F-35A in 2023.
The RAAF plans to transition one of its existing units into an operational F-35 fighter wing within the next three years. In December, the No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), located at RAAF Base Williamtown, Australia, ceased training F/A-18 Hornet pilots and transitioned into an F-35A training squadron. No. 2 OCU will train all future RAAF F-35A pilots and maintainers.
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