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Second time's a charm for Eglin F-35


Technical issues cut short the first F-35 Lightning II "orientation" flight down at Eglin AFB, but the second one went off just fine, Lockheed Martin announced on Tuesday.

The company's announcement detailed the specifics for the second attempt and showed how much more growth is still to come for Eglin as the new center of all things F-35. Here it is in its entirety:

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Bachmann successfully piloted the second F-35 local orientation flight in the skies above the Emerald Coast today. AF-13, an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, launched at 2:30 p.m. CDT and completed a 93-minute flight landing at 4:03 p.m. CDT.

At its operational peak, the F-35 Integrated Training Center at Eglin Air Force Base will train approximately 100 F-35 pilots and 2,200 maintainers annually. The wing's two F-35 pilots, in conjunction with its integrated team of military members, civilians and contractors, will begin to slowly build up their number of sorties with an initial goal of flying twice a week for the first couple of weeks and then steadily increasing the weekly sortie count.

Lockheed and program officials seem eager to sell the story that the F-35 is here now, today, and isn't just part of a PowerPoint diagram where everything on the battlefield is connected by little lightning bolts. Don't be surprised if you starting hearing about how many hours the jets have flown over the Panhandle along with the many test points -- hundreds and thousands of test points! -- it is blowing through in its development.

What supporters of this jet really need is for an F-35 to save a puppy somehow, or pull a child from a well, or star, as reported, in the "Top Gun" sequel with Tom Cruise. Lockheed and the Pentagon have to sell the F-35 to a general audience ... could one be a Transformer, maybe? ... because many of its critics within the defense world are fed up with it. We saw this week where the program boss, Vice Adm. David Venlet, just wants to be left alone to develop his airplane. That he needed to make such a case shows the worry that even amid positive news, he won't be.

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