Eglin Air Force Base, already home to one of the first operational squadrons of F-35 fighters, has just welcomed its newest stealth jet that features additional capabilities.
Eglin’s F-35 squadron currently has nine limited-capability “Block 1” versions of the jet that it uses to train instructor pilots and test pilots, and is set to receive an additional 13 new “Block 2” stealth jets with expanded abilities. The biggest difference between the original and the new F-35s is in its software, including a state-of-the-art distributed aperture system, a series of sensors that lie within the skin of the jet providing a complete spherical view in both day and night. The sensors detect heat and other sensory information and provide a view of the landscape to the pilot that is void of visual restrictions. Eventually, images from these sensors will be visible within the pilot’s helmet. This system is unique to the F-35.
Eglin plans to train 45 pilots in the F-35 by the end of the year, and students from all military branches are among those learning to fly the impressive machine through the Eglin schoolhouse.
The addition of these new aircraft will add more permanent personnel to Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing schoolhouse which now employs more than 1,300 people. By the end of the year this is expected to increase to about 1,900 with an additional 300 to join in 2014.