RAAF graduates first F-35A pilots trained in Australia

Four Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter pilots have graduated from the platform’s first operational conversion course to be completed in Australia.

RAAF 3 Sqn F-35A A35-008 Ex Rogue Ambush 21-1 [Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Defence/LAC Adam Abela]
An RAAF-operated F-35A Lightning II - serial A35-008 - in 3 Squadron markings, taxies out at RAAF Base Darwin on June 18, 2021, while participating in Exercise Rogue Ambush 21-1, the final element of RAAF pilot training on the F-35A. Commonwealth of Australia - Department of Defence/LAC Adam Abela

The accomplishment was announced by the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) on July 12. The course was conducted by No 2 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), located at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales. The final phase of the conversion was conducted from RAAF Base Darwin, Northern Territory, as part of Exercise Rogue Ambush 21-1, which was held from June 15 to July 2.

Wg Cdr Jordon Sander, commanding officer of No 2 OCU, commended the newest F-35A pilots for graduating from the intensive six-month course. He said: “I’m constantly impressed by the quality of our pilots. From their basic flying training, to then being selected for fighter jets, the F-35A operational conversion course was the very last hurdle.

“The pilots had to apply, and conduct simulated offensive and defensive manoeuvres, targeting both enemy airborne aircraft and missile systems on the ground. I look at how complex our systems are now, and I’m just amazed at what they do and how quickly they learn,” he added.