The milestone is significant for the team making the mission happen on a daily basis.
“It was truly a reflection of the teamwork between operations and maintainers, and also the collaboration between the 944th Operations Group Detachment 2, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and Lockheed Martin,” said Maj. Michael Hobson, 944th OG Det. 2 assistant director of operations, who flew the history-making sortie with one of four Japanese F-35A jets.
Luke acquired the Japanese jets for the FMS program, thus enabling JASDF pilots to train here. The first of three classes started in December and is already on the fast track to reaching all training goals ahead of schedule and graduating its first two students in May. The students include a JASDF commander and director of operations.
“They’ve got thousands of flying hours and they’re extremely experienced pilots with the F-2 and F-4, so they have flown 4th generation fighters before,” said Lt. Col. Eric Puels, 944th OG Det. 2 director of operations. “So this is really a transition course which is similar to what we do on the U.S. side but tailored to their needs and what they do in their country as far as training and execution.”
The course is a mix of classroom academics, simulators and flights. Upon completion of the course, the students will have the tools they need to create their own F-35 training program back home.