Ceremony Held August 26th At Eglin AFB In Florida
Air Force officials said the unveiling of the F-35A Lightning II
joint strike fighter August 26th was an "historic occasion" during
a rollout ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The F-35A,
on display during the ceremony, was delivered to Eglin in July by
Lt. Col. Eric Smith, the Air Force's first F-35 pilot.
"This is indeed a new era," said Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr.
(pictured), the Air Education and Training Command commander and
host of the milestone event.
The aircraft was developed in a span of only 15 years,
one-eighth of the 118 total years powered flight has existed, he
said. The F-35 brings advanced technological capabilities for the
future and the nation's defense -- something the general explained
was clearly unimaginable when Orville and Wilbur Wright performed
their maiden flight Dec.17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, NC. "While this
celebration is taking place in the Air Force hangar with the Air
Force variant of the F-35, this is really a story about the fully
integrated team of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, industry and
community partners who have been working years to make this day
possible," said Col. Andrew Toth, the 33rd Fighter Wing commander.
"In fact, Marine Col. Art Tomassetti, my vice, (today's master of
ceremonies), and test pilot, has been with this program for more
than a decade. So, some of us have been waiting a long time to see
During the past two years, the integrated and multi-service team
"Nomads" transformed their corner of Eglin AFB into the Department
of Defense's F-35 Integrated Training Center. The center includes a
university setting in which maintainers are expected to live, work
and train alongside pilots in operating the fifth-generation
More than 400 guests watched the JSF unveiling inside a newly
constructed Air Force hangar, a place where a future generation of
F-35 maintainers, pilots and leaders will learn their craft.
"Eventually about 2,200 maintainers and 100 pilots a year will pass
through our schoolhouse doors," Toth said. "In 2014, the program
should mature enough to have the Air Force send students fresh from
Delivery and success of the new program required the Air Force
overcome a great number of challenges. It will continue to do so
until the F-35 capabilities reach their full potential for the
interest of national security, Rice said. "But with all the wonders
of technology and the amazing physical performance of the F-35, let
me say that none of this happens without magnificent people," he
Wing leadership said they're already reaping the benefits of
multi-service collaboration in co-located facilities. "What this
aircraft behind me is a visual representation of our exciting
future," Toth said. "The 33rd Pursuit Group of the past is nothing
like the 33rd FW of today, except in the longstanding spirit of air
power. With the F-35 program, we foresee air dominance for our
services and partner nations for the next 30 to 50 years."