Military Aviation


Maj. Chris Campbell completed approximately 200 hours of academics, 14 simulators, a high-speed taxi and six flights in the aircraft before being deemed qualified as the 500th F-35 pilot

Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) has trained and graduated the 500th F-35 pilot on Sep. 19, 2017. Maj. Chris Campbell was previously a F-16 test pilot (featuring more than 1,000 fighter hours and 245 combat hours) before he converted to the F-35 at the 33rd Fighter Wing this summer.

“As a test pilot, working on the F-35 is an opportunity for me to be a real force-multiplier,” Campbell said. “Flying the F-35 has been a long-term goal of mine. I am thrilled to be part of the program and I hope to make a positive impact.”

As explained in the article 500th F-35 pilot takes to the sky, while training as an F-35A student pilot, Campbell completed approximately 200 hours of academics, 14 simulators, a high-speed taxi and six flights in the aircraft before being deemed qualified.

The coursework takes full advantage of emerging technology by leveraging virtual reality training for pilots to compliment the military’s most advanced weapon system.

“As we discover new ways to employ the F-35 based on its expanding capabilities, we have to adapt the way we train our pilots to ensure they meet the needs of our combat air forces,” said Col. Paul D. Moga, 33rd FW commander. “The world of fifth-gen tactics is rapidly evolving. It is changing the way we think, train and execute as a joint and multi-national force.”

Since the first aircraft was delivered in 2011, the F-35 enterprise and integrated training program have delivered more than 200 additional jets, produced more than 4,500 maintainers and flown more than 100,000 hours.

“The F-35 and the capabilities it brings to the joint fight are key to the Air Force’s ability to dominate in any airspace,” Moga said. “The Airmen we train and graduate today are the finest in the world. Their skills, coupled with the survivability and lethality of this weapon system, will ensure continued air superiority for the U.S., our partners and our allies for decades to come. Five hundred down, thousands to go.

“This milestone represents the epitome of a team effort: active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilian, contractor, Air Force and Navy personnel all coming together with a common purpose to accomplish a common mission – train and graduate outstanding professionals for the combat air forces.”

Campbell plans to use his experience as a legacy test pilot to help improve the fifth-generation fighter through developmental testing on the aircraft.

“The F-35 will be the backbone of the Department of Defense’s tactical fighter fleet,” Campbell added. “Making the product better in the developmental test phase will have a huge positive impact on the combat Air Force in the future.”

Eglin AFB is one of two bases in Air Education and Training Command (AETC) responsible for the F-35 training mission. Together, Eglin AFB and Luke AFB, Arizona, enable AETC to provide F-35 flying and maintenance training that are critical to the joint fight.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.  F-35A Lighning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham, Airman 1st Class Tristan Biese and Samuel King Jr. / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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