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RAAF’s first F-35A pilot takes to the skies

The Royal Australian Air Force’s first pilot of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has completed his first flight in the type.

On 17 March, Sqn Ldr Andrew Jackson conducted a flight in a US Air Force F-35A from Eglin AFB, Florida, says Lockheed.

Australia received its first pair of F-35As in 2014, with both examples going to the USAF’s F-35 training school at Luke AFB, Arizona. They are designated AU-1 and AU-2.

Canberra has firm plans to buy 72 examples of the stealthy type, and could obtain an additional 28 aircraft.

The RAAF’s first F-35A squadron will be 3 Sqn, which will re-equip with the jet at Luke AFB in 2018, before returning to Australia to conduct national-specific operational test and evaluation work.

The F-35A will replace Australia’s fleet of Boeing F/A-18A/B 'Classic' Hornet fighters.

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