News ID: 153339
Published: 0423 GMT June 16, 2016

Israeli F-35 pilots head to US to begin training

Israeli F-35 pilots head to US to begin training

The US Air Force (USAF) is set to start training the first cadre of Israeli F-35 fighter pilots from next month, despite the stealth aircraft’s substandard performance in tests due to software issues.

The four pilots are led by the commander of the Israeli air force’s first F-35I squadron and will begin simulator and ground-based training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

Three more pilots will join the program shortly thereafter and by the middle of the next year 12 pilots will have completed the approximately 100-day training program conducted by the USAF.

The pilots will then head back to the occupied Palestinian lands for actual flight training on Israeli F-35s, the first two of which are slated to be delivered later this year.

“We have 12 pilots selected, and by 2018, we’ll have selected another 10 to 15 pilots,” the Israel’s F-35 project manager told Defense News on Thursday. His name was kept confidential for security reasons.

Meanwhile, the aircraft’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is reportedly working to set up a local logistics center in at Nevatim Air Base in Israel’s Negev desert in order to establish the regime’s self-sufficiency in F-35 maintenance, overhaul and repair.

Due to Israel’s involvement in many regional conflicts in the Middle East, Lockheed martin and Israeli officials are exploring ways to accommodate the risks of wartime interruption in the aircraft’s maintenance.

One way, according to the Israeli air force, is to make use of Lockheed Martin’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) that allows the jet’s operators to maintain the aircraft through its projected 55-year lifespan.

The F-35I project director said “a lot” of airmen are already undergoing maintenance training at the regime’s Eglin Air Force Base since late last year.

The news comes amid uncertainty surrounding the aircraft’s development due to its many deficiencies.

According to J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, software bugs have dogged the $400 billion project often referred to as the world’s most expensive weapon.

In May, Gilmore revealed that five out of six US Air Force F-35 Joint Strike fighter jets failed to take off in a mock test and couldn’t boot their software.

US Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program chief, said in late may that the jet has faced more delays in initial operational testing and will not come any sooner than 2018.

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