First F-35A Weapons Loaders Certify

The first weapons load team certified on the F-35A strike fighter completed training at Eglin AFB, Fla., scratching off an initial operating capability requirement for the F-35, officials announced. “Before us, there was no weapons capability” for the F-35A, said SSgt. Zachary Watts, 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit load team leader, in an Oct. 21 release. “We’re making it from an airline into the Air Force,” he added. Eglin’s F-35 Academic Training Center plans to train and certify 10 weapons crews through the one-week course over the next six months. “Once that happens, each load crew will continually come through every month for proficiency load training,” said SMSgt. Jason Sells, 33rd Maintenance Group weapons standardization superintendent. This initial cadre eventually will become trainers to establish weapons capability at the various F-35A operating locations, according to the release. “Anything that we can do to help mature the program to get us ready for IOC, that’s our big thing,” Sells added.