First Australian trained F-35A pilots take flight

Squadron Leader William Grady prepares the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter for his first flight following transition training at RAAF Base Williamtown.
The Air Force’s first pilots to complete a RAAF F-35A Joint Strike Fighter transition course in Australia have flown the aircraft for the first time.
Two pilots conducted their first training mission on the F-35A at RAAF Base Williamtown on 15 July after undertaking an intensive two month academic and simulator training program at the base’s Integrated Training Centre.
Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) William Grady, a former F-22 exchange pilot, said the transition course has been tailored to leverage previous fighter experience.
“The F-35A training is unique in that there is no two-seat variant to aid airborne instruction,” SQNLDR Grady said.
“As a result, we do comparatively more simulator training before flying for the first time.
“It has been an intensive few months, but I’m happy to say the training is first class,” he said.
Commanding Officer Number 3 Squadron (3SQN), Wing Commander (WGCDR) Darren Clare, said the 15 July flights marked an important milestone in the F-35A’s introduction to service.
“Being able to watch the launch of the first two Australian-trained pilots on their first flight was a proud moment,” WGCDR Clare said.
“Although we currently still send pilots to the US for training, this shows Australia is quickly becoming self-sufficient and it all contributes to our F-35A squadrons reaching combat readiness as planned.”
“The introduction of a Fifth-Generation aircraft and all of its new systems has been highly complex.
“It has only been since January that we started testing out how the F-35A integrated with the Australian logistics, base support and local training systems.
“So the credit for today’s milestone goes to all those who have worked tirelessly to ensure the F-35A has had a smooth introduction to service,” he said.
Australia’s fleet of 10 F-35A aircraft based at Luke Air Force Base and RAAF Base Williamtown have collectively achieved over 2900 hours across more than 1750 sorties since 2014.
The F-35A attainment of Initial Operating Capability is on schedule for December 2020.