Squadron Leaders Andrew Jackson and David Bell have been named as the RAAF’s first two pilots selected to fly the F-35A Lightning.
SQNLDR Jackson is currently executive officer with 2OCU at Williamtown and is a Fighter Combat Instructor (FCI) course graduate, while SQNLDR Bell is a qualified test pilot who has served with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, and is currently a planning officer with Headquarters Air Combat Group.
SQNLDR Jackson will commence conversion training on the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in early 2015, while SQNLDR Bell will begin F-35A training at Luke AFB, Nevada, in mid-2015. Both will then be assigned to Luke, which is nominated to be the US Air Force’s major F-35 pilot training base.
Australia’s first two F-35As are scheduled to be delivered to Luke in early 2015 where they will initially join an F-35A pilot training aircraft pool there. Subsequently, Australia’s first F-35A squadron (slated to be 3SQN) will transition onto the jet at Luke once further RAAF aircraft are delivered later in the decade.
The pilots’ selection to fly the F-35 was announced at the Centenary of Military Aviation Airshow at Point Cook on Saturday.
“It is fitting to announce the future of this capability here at Point Cook, where military aviation in Australia was born. Our history is important, and our first two pilots will make history as they become our first pilots to fly this fifth generation aircraft,” said Deputy Chief of Air Force AVM Leo Davies.
“Not only do they represent the future of RAAF, they will have an important leadership and training role as future instructors for the F-35A.