May 14, 2010 (by Justin Oakes) - Luke Air Force Base will soon begin looking for a new wing weapons officer.
Maj. Josh 'Dog' Wood, 56th OSS weapons chief, was selected to fly the new F-35 Lightning II JSF. He was one of five pilots selected out of approximately 150 candidates. Major Woods is scheduled for a one year short-tour at Osan AB, Korea before moving to Eglin AFB to begin training.
Maj. Josh Wood, who currently holds the position, will be departing Luke and for that matter, will no longer be flying F-16s. But there's a good reason - he's to fly the next generation aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
With Air Force bases across the globe submitting recommendations, Major Wood is one of five pilots who was selected out of approximately 150 candidates to fly the F-35.
"First off, I'm extremely humbled and it means the world to me," said Major Wood. "I can't describe what an unbelievable opportunity this is."
Major Wood has spent 10 years in the Air Force and has been stationed at Luke since July 2008. He has more than 1,430 flight hours in an F-16 and approximately 1,650 total flight hours.
But the future F-35 pilot attributes his selection to something a little more than a decade of experience and more than a thousand hours of flight time.
"It was the right combination of luck, timing, superior leadership and God's sovereignty that allowed me to be chosen," Major Wood said. "Coming to Luke also played an integral part. I was afforded the opportunity to be both a basic F-16 instructor and a weapons officer at the largest F-16 base in the world. And both positions were selection criteria for the F-35 program."
The F-35 Lightning II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon do share several similarities that will make the transition easier for Major Wood.
"Both are single engine, multirole aircraft that share stick and hands-on throttle likeness," Major Wood said. "The cockpit of the F-35 was heavily influenced by and bears a strong resemblance to the F-16."
But what Major Wood is looking forward to are not the similarities, but the differences in technology and enhancements in capabilities that the new Joint Strike Fighter offers.
"A new helmet mounted display system, electro-optical targeting system and a distributed aperture system are just a few of things I'm looking forward to getting my hands on," Major Wood said.
A synthetic aperture system will provide pilots with a unique protective sphere around the aircraft for enhanced situational awareness, missile and aircraft warning, day and night pilot vision and fire control capability.
"Through the use of this new aircraft, we will be able to bridge the gap from current threat to capability," Wood said. "We will have the ability to go anywhere and continue making our mark on air dominance and supremacy."
In four weeks Major Wood will be departing for a one-year short tour at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, before he can move to Eglin AFB
and begin flying the new F-35.
Seeing how I'm a Tallahassee, Fla. native, the location couldn't better, Major Wood said.
Accompanying him on his move will be his wife, Bonnie, daughter, Grace and son, Samuel.
"We also have grandparents in Florida. And for the first time ever, we'll be stationed less than 1,000 miles from home," Major Wood said. "We are all very excited and this is a positive thing all the way around. The entire family is excited to be a part of this effort."