Members from the 944th Operations Group Detachment 2 “Ninjas” and JASDF, pose for a photo May 18 after the graduating JASDF F-35 pilot’s final flight at Luke AFB. [USAF photo by TSgt. Louis Vega Jr.]
The occasion marked the final milestone in a series of firsts made possible by the collective efforts of the JASDF, 944th Fighter Wing, and Lockheed Martin.
“The team worked hard to meticulously build this program from the ground up for this moment,” said Col. Kurt Gallegos, 944 FW commander. “I am confident these pilots will take back what they have learned here and effectively stand up their own program making an impact.”
The two pilots will take part in establishing Japan’s first F-35A squadron enhancing their national defense abilities.
“It is a precious opportunity for me to be part of the first graduating class and I feel very lucky to be involved in the F-35A stand-up program in Japan,” said one of the newly graduated JASDF F-35 pilots. “I received a lot of information during the training and learned a lot of things from the U.S. Air Force instructor pilots about how to fly the jet and tactics.”
The approximately seven month long course consisted of in-depth classroom academic instruction, simulator training and F-35 orientation before they experienced their first flight. Their training culminated with air-to-air and air-to-ground employment experience.
The graduation was marked by a small ceremony hosted by the 944th Operations Group, Detachment 2.
“Graduating our first two Koku-Jieitai F-35 pilots was a remarkable milestone for Japan, the F-35 program, and the Det. 2 Ninjas,” said Lt. Col. Sean Holahan, 944 OG Det. 2 commander. “It validated all of the hard work we’ve put into building this training program, and exercised the entire system from a beddown and sustainment perspective, all the way through academics, aircraft maintenance and flying operations. In the end, our first two Koku-Jieitai pilots graduated with…