Lockheed Martin stands ready to stand up the Australian training contingent for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter despite delays to the project in last week’s budget, the company has said.
Speaking to a media tour of the company’s Global Training and Logistics business unit in Orlando, Florida Lockheed Martin’s F-35 International Training Program’s manager Eric Christner said the pilot and maintainer training site at Eglin Air Force Base was being stood up in line with the needs of the services taking F-35 aircraft.
“It’s really a [New Air Combat Capability office] decision how they want to go forward. Initially, pilots will be trained in the US, either at Eglin [Air Force Base], or the Pilot Training Centre which will be set up at a second site. Maintainers will be trained at Eglin,” Mr Christner said.
“There really hasn’t been much feedback yet as to how the plans will be effected.”
Lockheed Martin has recently delivered an Australian sustainment plan for the F-35 program and a response was due from government in the coming months. Developed in conjunction with the RAAF, Mr Christner said the plan outlined the standing up of training facilities in Williamtown and Tindall, including schedule and contracting arrangements.
Mr Christner said the company was unsure of how the budgetary delays would impact on the sustainment plan, but expected a request for update from government after the plan’s delivery.
Mr Christner said the 13 services requiring training for the F-35 – including US services and partner nations – represented a significant challenge for the development of a training solution.
“If you look at our core syllabus, about 70 per cent of the syllabus is common to those 13 services. Of the remaining 30 per cent, 15 per cent is minor differences in nomenclature – different services doing the same task but with different wording to describe them. The remaining 15 per cent are due to the three variants of the aircraft,” Mr Christner said.
“We’re very happy with the amount of commonality we were able to derive from this design. Those common systems make the training package more cost effective in development and provide for affordability during the life-cycle.”
The F-35 Integrated Training System makes use of synthetic and advanced simulation systems as well as the platforms themselves. The system also includes operational and deployed training components allowing for on-demand training and mission rehearsal.
In the development of the system, Lockheed Martin worked with partner nations to develop a baseline for pilot and maintainer students prior to undertaking training for the F-35. While the baseline would require recommendations for existing in-country training systems, Mr Christner said that most partner nations had higher existing standards than the United States.
“Many partner nations take university graduates for training in maintainer and pilot roles, while the United States takes people with a high school education. While the assessment included recommendations for some services, in most cases this wasn’t required and focused on a common understanding of student prerequisites.”