Photo: US Air Force
We’ve all heard practice makes perfect. And that’s all the more real when you’re a fighter pilot working on the closely-watched $382 billion F-35 program.Lately we’ve been catching glimpses of pilots demonstrating more complex maneuvers with the strike fighter, but before they’re performed in the air those operations are practiced in these high-tech F-35 simulators.
This is the only training facility where all three variants of the F-35 are used with several mission rehearsal simulators, along with ejection seat and weapons loading trainers on one huge campus.
This Eglin F-35 simulator with its wraparound screen is capable of networking in other simulators to practice formation flying without ever leaving the ground
The Full Mission Simulator (FMS) cockpit can be reconfigured for the all three variants of the F-35 which are capable of different landing situations:
F-35A -- Conventional Take Off & Landing (CTOL)
F-35B --Short Take Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL)
F-35C --Carrier Variant (CV)
This diagram shows the $20 million simulators and training stations* where crews practice bringing the Allied fighter to life
*Simulators and Trainers:
Full Mission Simulator -- creates the visual quality needed to simulate aerial refueling, emergency procedures, and landings.
Mission Rehearsal Trainer -- a smaller-scale simulator that uses the same technology but without the full 360 degree dome display. A deployable version containing two cockpits can be shipped to other bases or carriers so pilots can stay on top of realistic training between missions.
Aircraft Systems Maintenance Trainer -- enables engineers to practice mission-critical or life-saving maintenance operations.
Ejection System Maintenance Trainer -- allows technicians to train in the removal of the cockpit's canopy, as well as ejection seat procedures. Pilots depend on crew to help them out when things go wrong.
Weapons Loading Trainer -- crew members practice the procedures for loading and unloading sophisticated missiles and bombs. The F-35 has internal and external weapon bays.
Source: UK Armed Forces Commentary
Carrier landings can be absurdly difficult and with the ocean pitching carrier decks to unpredictable heights the runway becomes a moving target — check out the aircraft carrier projected in the distance and the pilot's flight deck visual sensors.
Taken by defence contractor BAE, a British partner in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, it's not clear if this photo was snapped at Eglin Air Force Base or a smaller facility, although it clearly shows how F-35 pilots are using mission simulators today.
The F-35's flight deck is designed to give pilots exceptional situational awareness, including video links to troops on the ground
The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps all have their own hangars with each responsible for perfecting use of a certain F-35 variant — See below for what actually happens here
USAF hangar -- The Air Force has 20-four F-35A variants here. The Air Force's 58th Fighter Squadron trains their own pilots with this variant.
DoN hangar -- The Department of the Navy hangar splits into halls for the Marine Corps, with 20 F-35Bs, and the Navy with fifteen F-35Cs. The Air Force 'Warlords' fighter squadron trains the Marines, while the 'Grim Reapers' trains the Sailors.
CLS -- Control and logistics support supplied by the 33rd Maintenance Operation Squadron.
33 FW HQ -- The headquarters of guys running the whole show. 33rd Fighter Wing oversees the fighter squadrons training F-35 pilots and crews.
ATC -- Academic Training centre shown in the previous slide. It's the 'School House' where classrooms and simulators are located.
Source: Air Force 33rd Fighter Wing
Leon Panetta toured F-35 facilities earlier this year and was snapped at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, getting the low-down on a Joint Strike Fighter Manned Flight Simulator by Lieutenant Colonel Fed 'Tinman' Schenk of the Marine Corps.
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