The 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., is ready to conduct F-35A pilot training beginning in January, announced Air Education and Training Command on Monday. Some 36 Air Force pilots are expected to go through the training program next year, according to Eglin’s Dec. 17 release. AETC Commander Gen. Edward Rice made the decision following his review of the results of an independent operational utility evaluation that gauged the wing’s ability to execute the training mission. “The OUE showed the men and women at Eglin are ready” and “can conduct safe and effective flying operations in addition to academic training,” said Rice. He added, “I’m very proud of both those in uniform and the contracted support who put in years of hard work.” The OUE included classroom and simulator training, along with six flights, for four primary and two backup student pilots transitioning from the A-10 and F-16, according to the release. The student pilots’ performances “were superb,” said Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, commander of Eglin’s 58th Fighter Squadron. At full capacity, Eglin’s training operations are expected to support 100 student pilots a year, along with 2,100 maintenance students, states the release. (Eglin report by Maj. Karen Roganov) (See also Reuters report.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.