DoD report: Value of F-35 student training is limited (DOCUMENT)

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM.

The costliest development phases are still ahead, it states.

The schoolhouse

All students learning to fly the F-35 must attend the courses at Eglin. Currently, only experienced pilots are training on the jets, and they will become instructors for future classes, said Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, which hosts the school.

The pilots now are training on an early version of the jet, called Block 1, that has limited capability.

The planes can provide basic pilot training but have no combat capability. The pilots also are very restricted in what they are allowed to perform in the aircraft, according to the DoD report.

“The utility of training with an aircraft this early in development is limited because of the extreme aircraft operating limitation and lack of mission capability,” the report states. “There are a number of restrictions on the aircraft that are typical of a test aircraft only partway through its flight test program, but very atypical of a fighter aircraft used for student training.”

For example, the F-35s soaring over Northwest Florida are prohibited from performing aerobatics, descending at more than 6,000 feet per minute, exceeding Mach 0.9 speed or maneuvering at more than 5 Gs. They can’t take off or land in formation, fly at night or use instruments to fly during weather events, the report states.

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