Tentative Steps at Eglin

Pending military flight clearance, F-35s will begin flying syllabus-evaluation sorties from the joint schoolhouse at Eglin AFB, Fla., in the next few weeks, according to Air Education and Training Command chief Gen. Edward Rice. “We intend to do this in a very deliberate manner,” said Rice on Thursday at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. He underscored that the timeline to begin actual pilot training is purely “event driven.” The first class of F-35 pilots was slated to begin training with Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing in January, but concerns over the pipeline’s maturity pushed training out indefinitely. “We will let events unfold in a way that gives us confidence that we can both execute the syllabus and that we can generate a sortie rate that will sustain the syllabus,” said Rice. “I can’t tell you how that’s all going to unfold, but we’ll start with flying a couple of flights a week and move up from there,” he added. In the meantime, instructors at Eglin are conducting ground training while hammering out the details of a new maintenance and supply system, he said.