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62nd FS pilots, maintainers prepare for Red Flag

First Lt. Steven Boger, 62nd Fighter Squadron student pilot, prepares for flight Jan. 29, 2021, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

First Lt. Steven Boger, 62nd Fighter Squadron student pilot, prepares for flight Jan. 29, 2021, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Boger is part of a 9-month B-course F-35A Lightning II training class, which trains student pilots to become fully mission qualified in the F-35. The Vision of the 62nd FS is to develop professional fighter pilots and leaders for the United States Air Force and its partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dominic Tyler)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- U.S. and international student pilots enrolled in the F-35A Lightning II B-course are preparing for Red Flag Exercise 21-2, one of the largest aerial combat simulations the U.S. Air Force has to offer.

Three U.S. pilots and five Norwegian pilots assigned to the 62nd Fighter Squadron began B-course July 28, 2020. During the 9-month course, instructors transform the student pilots into combat-ready Airmen for the F-35A Lightning II.

“B-coursers are typically the newest students, and the F-35 is their first fighter jet,” said Capt. Alexander Young, 62nd FS F-35 instructor pilot. “With this course, these student pilots will learn and develop the habit patterns they will likely use for the rest of their careers.”

By the end of the B-course, each student will be fully qualified in the F-35.

Young said Red Flag offers the students exposure to simulated combat operations in a safe, controlled environment. The students will employ the tactics they have learned in B-course during the training.

Developed in 1975 to better prepare the Air Force for combat, Red Flag is the Air Force’s primere air-to-air combat training exercise conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. A typical Red Flag exercise fields 60 or more aircraft including fighters, bombers, reconnaissance, airlift, air refueling and search and rescue aircraft from the U.S. and international partner nations.

“Our class has been working toward Red Flag since we started the B-course back in August,” said 1st Lt. Tyler Dockum, 62nd FS F-35 B-course student pilot. “It’s awesome to see all the effort that goes into making this course happen.”

Young said that though these students are working hard to prepare for Red Flag, preparing for this event would not be possible without the hard work of the maintenance team.

Capt. Uddit Patel, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, said the 62nd FS has increased sortie production in the weeks leading up to the exercise to ensure the B-course students are fully prepared for the experience, and maintainers have been working behind the scenes ensuring the aircraft are available for the pilots.

“Our mission at the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit is to provide safe, reliable aircraft to our fighter squadron,” says Patel. “We have ensured the jets are in the best flying condition. Red Flag is also a great way for our maintainers to gain experience and show their skills.”

During Red Flag, pilots and maintainers plan and execute a simulated major combat operation with dissimilar aircraft and an array of experienced Airmen from around the world.

“To have multiple different nationalities in one room executing a large force exercise together is rare to see anywhere else,” said Young. “Red Flag is a chance for our students to put what they’ve learned so far to the test and expand their depth of experience in operations with a lot of different aircraft.”

He added that the 62nd FS and 62nd AMU lean on one another to achieve Luke’s mission in training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready Airmen.