Eglin Prepares to Open F-35 Training Center

By Grace V. Jean

FORT WORTH, Texas — Lockheed Martin Corp. is building a high-tech training center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which will be used by all F-35 pilots and maintainers. The facility, scheduled to be completed in 2010, will house full-motion simulators, computer-based training classrooms and portable training devices.

“We want to produce a mission-qualified pilot and a mission-qualified maintainer,” says Peter Walker, project manager for Lockheed Martin Simulations, Training and Support. Even though there are three variants of the aircraft and nine different countries involved with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, 70 percent of the training is common, he adds.

The full-motion simulation will have a bonafide F-35 cockpit surrounded by a dome to hone pilots’ skills. It will be connected to other trainers on site via a local area network for formation flying and it also can connect to other Air Force systems for virtual war gaming events.

Lockheed also is developing a scaled-down version of the full-motion simulation. Configured for two pilots, the deployment mission rehearsal trainer will be housed in a standard 8-foot by 8-foot by 20-foot military container. Every fighter squadron will receive one so pilots can conduct mission rehearsals when they are deployed, even aboard aircraft carriers and amphibious ships. The Navy and Marine Corps are in the process of allocating space for the trainers.

“It allows you to do all this training that’s never gone on a carrier before,” says Steve O’Bryan, a former Navy F-18 pilot who is on the F-35 business development team. Deployed naval and Marine pilots must be flown back to the States to re-qualify on skills that may have expired. Having a simulator on board the ship will reduce the need to fly pilots home for refresh training, he says.

At the integrated training center, Joint Strike Fighter student pilots will check out laptop computers and throttle-and-stick controllers to continue learning how to operate the F-35 from the comfort of their homes. The laptops will have touch-screen and voice recognition capabilities, just as pilots will have in the fighter cockpit on the 8-inch by 20-inch display. “The kids are actually going to take this home and mess around with it on their own time,” says Jason McAlister with Lockheed’s F-35 pilot training program.

The software will walk student pilots through the basic functions of the aircraft, such as operating the communications systems and setting the autopilot. With a simple touch of a finger, pilots can learn how to expand and pull up drop-down menus. Once students are familiar with the basic cockpit operations using the stick and throttle and touch-screen display, trainers will introduce the voice recognition and the helmet-mounted display systems through a pair of special glasses with a built-in microphone.

“Auto pilot, altitude 2-5-0,” commands McAlister, a Navy Reserve T-45 flight instructor, during a demonstration of the system. “I’m talking to this jet and it’s doing what I want it to do, which is pretty slick,” says the retired AV-8B Harrier pilot.

In the first iteration of the voice recognition program, pilots will only be able to change radio frequencies, waypoints and identification codes. Subsequent command capabilities will depend upon pilot feedback and operational needs.

The laptop trainers also can connect over the Internet to allow students to practice flying in formation.

Company officials acknowledge that the costs for the portable training system will be higher than traditional paper-based manuals. But over the lifetime of the aircraft, it will be more cost-effective because they can make updates, revisions and changes to the digital manual without having to republish actual pages.

They also expect students to practice on the systems so much that they may be able to reduce the amount of classroom, simulation and even actual flight time in the aircraft.

For maintainers, the trainer is a desktop computer-based course that will walk crews through the various parts of the aircraft and teach them how to remove and replace components. They will receive small laptops loaded with technical data that they can take them out to the flight line for maintenance.

Lockheed also is working on two life-size simulations: the ejection system maintenance trainer and weapons loader trainer. Both will reduce the wear and tear on actual aircraft and free them up for flying missions.

All the training systems will be housed in a temporary building at Eglin late next year, and in 2010, they will move into the newly designed F-35 training center. The first Joint Strike Fighters are expected to arrive on the base in March 2011, where they will fly with the training wing.

Please email your comments to

Topics: Aviation, Joint Strike Fighter, Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, ComputerBased Training

Comments (0)

Retype the CAPTCHA code from the image
Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Please enter the text displayed in the image.