Air Force evaluators began the final certification process for full-up F-35A training at Eglin AFB, Fla. A cadre of four pilots on Sept. 10 commenced the operational utility evaluation, which is dry run of every facet of Eglin’s F-35 training pipeline. “The start of the OUE is another huge milestone for the Air Force and the program as a whole,” said Col. Andrew Toth, 33rd Fighter Wing commander, who oversees Eglin’s joint F-35 schoolhouse. Training officials at Eglin originally intended to launch the OUE last October and begin training operational F-35 pilots this past January. Instead, Air Force officials didn’t clear the F-35A to begin flight operations at Eglin until the end of February, bumping the OUE back. Following the 65-day OUE, “we should receive the Air Education and Training Command’s approval that states we are ‘ready for training,'” added Toth. (Eglin report by Chrissy Cuttita)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.