Joint Strike Fighter pilots train in Gunfighter Country

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Samuel Morse
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
F-35A Lightning II instructor pilots from the 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, came here for three weeks in late October to train the next generation of F-35A pilots.

The instructors used the 266th Range Squadron's Multiple Threat Emitter System, capable of simulating 65 different types of ground threats, to train the new pilots through scenarios that mimic real enemy threats. The visit is part of the F-35A Basic Course, or B-Course for short.

"We travel up here to use this current, cutting-edge technology to get the best training possible," said Maj. Jondavid Hertzel, 62nd FS instructor pilot. "It allows us to get the most out of every flight hour and train like we would actually fight."

Many of the instructors previously flew other types of aircraft and praise the sophistication and maneuverability of the F-35A, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. Hertzel cites the new flight control system that allows control, even at low speeds, with the aircraft angled almost perpendicular to the oncoming airflow.

"You just kind of feel like you're falling through the air but you still have control of the nose and can point it where you want,"Hertzel said. "It's super cool."

For the students, the opportunity to fly the Air Force's most technologically advanced fighter jet is a privilege.

"It's a huge honor -- I was honestly really surprised I was assigned the F-35 out of pilot training," said 1st Lt. Alex Fotheringham, 62nd FS student pilot. "The Air Force has definitely put a lot of trust in young guys like me."

Fotheringham has wanted to be a pilot since he was in early elementary school. He remembers his grandfather who worked as an engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and would bring him to the Air Force Museum there.

"I, as a little kid, would just run around for hours just looking at all the airplanes," Fotheringham said. "From that moment, I wanted to be an Air Force aviator."

The trip also gave an opportunity for maintenance crews to train their newer airmen.

"Figuring things out and troubleshooting, that's what A-10 experience brought me," said Staff Sgt. Tyler Sherman, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. "It gives me a lot of pride; a lot of airmen tell me they look up to me."

This is the second F-35A B-Course to train here, and the pilots expressed appreciation for the efforts of Gunfighters and maintainers in making it happen.

"It's a real honor and privilege to be flying the F-35 and working here at Mountain Home (AFB)," Hertzel said.