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Eglin F-35s fly 200th sortie
By: Dave Majumdar Washington DC
US Marine Corps (USMC) Major Joseph Bachmann, a test pilot assigned to VMFAT-501, flew Eglin's 200th sortie on 24 August, 2012. Bachmann was instructing one the unit's transitioning pilots, USMC Major Mike Rountree-a highly experienced weapons school instructor. Rountree is converting over to the F-35B from the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II.
"The aircraft have matured dramatically since the early days," Bachmann says. "What we're seeing is just leaps and bounds of maturity here with the airplanes we have."
Right now, the base has started to fly with enhanced Block 1B aircraft-which adds mostly improved software but also some hardware modifications. Block 1B aircraft are much more stable and predictable than Block 1A aircraft, Rountree says.
The next step for instructor pilots at Eglin is to validate the courseware for the Block 1B software, Rountree says. That is necessary in order to train USMC aviators who are standing up the service's first operational F-35B in Yuma, Arizona, later in the year.
The F-35 no longer requires a chase aircraft, Rountree says. "We no longer have a requirement to be chased by a dissimilar aircraft," he says. Instead, the F-35s now operate as a normal two-ship element.
Additionally, pilots are readying themselves to start aerial refueling operations with the F-35 "in the next couple of weeks," Bachmann says.
Source: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articl ... ie-375794/