An F-35 Flight to Remember

Air Force major becomes 100th pilot to fly the F-35 Lightning II


file Before becoming the 100th pilot to fly the F-35 Lightning II, U.S. Air Force Maj. Robert Miller completed five weeks of academic and simulator instruction at Eglin Air Force Base’s Integrated Training Center, which provides pilot and maintainer training for the three F-35 variants.

Maj. Robert Miller has recorded more than 1,300 flight hours during his Air Force career, but he’ll never forget the 90 minutes he recently spent flying the F-35 Lightning II in the skies above Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base.

“It was great to get airborne today. The jet handles well and is very easy to fly. I’m looking forward to testing the combat capabilities of the F-35 over the next few years at Edwards (Air Force Base),” said Miller, who with the July 9 flight became the 100th pilot to be trained to fly the F-35.

Miller’s familiarization flight included normal operations for aircraft handling and landings in an F-35A fighter. The flight followed five weeks of academic and simulator instruction at Eglin’s Integrated Training Center, which provides pilot and maintainer training for the three F-35 variants.

"Maj. Miller is representative of the highly-trained pilots populating the F-35 community," said Col. Todd Canterbury, commander of Eglin's 33d Fighter Wing. "This milestone is significant because it shows the program is maturing rapidly and highlights the successful implementation of a world-class training program and development of the F-35 Lightning II for the combat air forces."

Eglin serves as the initial training base for the Joint Strike Fighter, and the training program for pilots and maintainers is now running at full capacity after being validated by the Air Force in January 2013.  Approximately 100 pilots and 2,200 maintainers will be qualified annually through Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Training System at the base to support initial operational capability targets.

The joint service partners at Eglin have flown 2,292 F-35 hours and have 28 aircraft assigned, representing the largest fleet of F-35s in the world. The training program is supported by Lockheed Martin employees in Orlando and Akron, as well as at Eglin. The Lockheed Martin training system is also operational at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

A fifth generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Three F-35 variants will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries.

Posted on July 11, 2013


About the 100th pilot

Maj. Robert Miller, currently assigned to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., has spent 11 years in the Air Force and has flown more than 1,300 hours in the F-16, including 369 combat hours. He joins an experienced cadre of F-35 pilots among the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, the United Kingdom and industry.