Now it’s official: the USAF’s F-35A jet has met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability. This is another significant milestone in the stealth fighter’s journey. The Israeli jets are expected to land in Israel in four months. Additionally, the “Golden Eagle” Squadron’s (the Israeli F-35I squadron) aircrews have taken off for conversion training in the U.S
Zohar Boneh & EilonTohar | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, declared the F-35A jet “combat ready”. Gen. Carlisle praised the advanced, “Lockheed Martin” stealth fighter’s performance and noted that the aircraft had met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability: Airmen trained, manned and equipped to conduct basic close air support, interdiction and limited suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses in a contested environment with an operational squadron of 12-24 aircraft; the ability to deploy and conduct operational missions using program of record weapons and missions systems; and having all necessary logistics and operational elements in place.
“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” Carlisle said. “The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory, because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield”.
The F-35I “Adir” is expected to land in Israel in about four months and make Israel the first country to operate the fifth gen stealth fighter outside of the U.S. “Bringing the F-35A to initial combat readiness is a testament to our phenomenal Airmen and the outstanding support of the Joint Program Office and our enterprise partners” said Deborah Lee James, U.S Secretary of the Air Force. “This important milestone for our fighter force ensures the United States, along with our allies and international partners, remains prepared to deter, deny and defeat the full spectrum of growing threats around the globe”.
Photo by: Lockheed Martin
“The future of the squadron will affect the entire IAF”
Simultaneously with the integration of the aircraft in the USAF and the declaration of its initial operational capability, the aircrew members of the IAF’s “Golden Eagle” Squadron, which will soon receive the “Adir” (F-35I) fifth gen stealth fighter, are currently in Arizona, U.S.A, undergoing conversion training for the aircraft which will soon land in Nevatim AFB. “It is a new stage, it has now become tangible”, said Lt. Col. Yotam, the squadron commander.
“We have a dual duty there”, he continued, “on one hand we need to study the plane at the highest level, so that when we come back we will be able to operate it optimally. On the other hand, we represent the Israeli Air Force and the state of Israel, so we must demonstrate utmost professionalism”.
Throughout the training period, the crews will fly about 70 hours in an American simulator which simulates the aircraft’s abilities. “In accordance with ‘Lockheed Martin’s new training concept, the simulator perfectly simulates the aircraft and its abilities”, shared Lt. Col. Yotam.
Photo by: Lockheed Martin
Is it possible to be ready and fit to fly the “Adir” when training only in a simulator?
“Like the ‘Adir’ that is expected to land in Israel, the jet in Arizona is also single-seated, so in any case, the transition between simulator flights to real flights will be very independent”, explained Maj. Matan, the “Adir” Training Center Commander and one of the aircrew members who left for the conversion training. “Because the simulator simulates reality almost tangibly, the transition will be smooth”.
Alongside flying in simulators, the participants will also receive theoretical studies. “We performed a kind of preliminary conversion for ourselves – in the past months we studied from documents we received so when we arrive, we will be able to cut straight to long-term significant learning and not hear the material for the first time”, shared Lt. Col. Yotam. “We know that what we will do in our conversion training and the places we will go, will significantly influence the future of the squadron and the future of the squadron will affect the whole IAF”.
“We will do everything there, from acquaintance with the basic systems and to studying the tactical systems”, elaborated, Maj. Matan, “There will be pilots who fly the F-35 and instructors from the international training center. We must learn from their experience, so that in the future we will be able to move the training center to Israel, a thing that we hope will happen until 2018”.
Photo by: Lockheed Martin
A Significant Step and a Great Challenge
Besides the squadron members, additional delegates will also join the mission to the U.S for a partial conversion including the Simulator Officer to be, who will join in order to learn about the simulator itself that will be integrated in the IAF in 2017. In fact, this is only the first class of the conversion course and in November, a second delegation which will include two pilots from the “Golden Eagle” Squadron and a test pilot is expected to take off for a similar conversion.