Flying The F-35 Lightning II JSF Joint Strike Fighter Video
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Flying The F-35 Lightning II JSF Joint Strike Fighter Video

The F-35 Lightning II JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) and the first Air Force Airman to fly it is the subject of this military aviation video news story.

A pilot from Edwards Air Force Base, California, became the first Air Force and government test pilot to fly the F-35 Lightning II during a test sortie at the Lockheed Martin facility January 30 at Naval Air Station Fort Worth.

Lt. Col. James Kromberg, the director of operations for the 461st Flight Test Squadron, flew the F-35, numbered AA-1, which is currently flying envelope expansion, flying qualities evaluations, subsystems testing and initial systems assessments at Fort Worth.

The test flight consisted of the takeoff, handling qualities maneuvers, engine throttle transients, formation maneuvers with an F-16 Fighting Falcon and the landing.

After the flight, Colonel Kromberg said the F-35 flew "very well."

"The aircraft was responsive across all flight regimes," Colonel Kromberg said. "The engine thrust response was excellent -- accelerating very quickly. The aircraft was very stable during formation flight."

The colonel said he was very excited to fly the F-35.

"I have been smiling since arriving at the aircraft this morning and haven't stopped," he said.

Before the flight, the test team briefed Colonel Kromberg covering all test maneuvers, safety of flight requirements and potential emergency procedures.

Prior to flying the F-35, Colonel Kromberg received training at Fort Worth in the aircraft simulator, control room crew resource management and emergency procedures. He's been a part of the test team since September 2005.

Aside from the training, Colonel Kromberg said he was involved with helping draft the F-35's initial flight manual, test plans and aircrew training procedures. He has more than 3,200 flight hours experience flying various aircraft including the F-16, F-15 Eagle, T-38 Talon and AV-8B Harrier.

Before joining the Air Force in 2003, Colonel Kromberg was a Marine officer from 1987 to 2003. During that time, he attended Naval Flight Training, served in three AV-8B Harrier squadrons as both a maintenance and operations officer, attended the Air Force Test Pilot School and served as the lead AV-8B operational test director. Before his current stint at the 461st FLTS, Colonel Kromberg served as the Test Pilot School assistant operations officer and plans and programs director.

As a former Marine with AV-8B experience and a graduate of both the Marine's weapons school and Air Force's TPS, he is uniquely qualified to be the first military pilot on this joint program, said Col. Arnie Bunch, the 412th Test Wing commander.

"As the Edwards Integrated Test Force director of operations, he is the military pilot most closely associated with tests of AA-1," Colonel Bunch said. "He has participated in simulator tests, flight control development and cockpit design of the JSF for the last two years."

Because the F-35 is in the development stages, only Test Pilot School graduates can fly the aircraft first, Colonel Bunch said. The initial pilot cadre -- contractor and military -- are chosen for their fighter aircraft backgrounds, extensive test experience and experience in the JSF program.

There are advantages to having both contractors and military testers fly test missions, Colonel Bunch said.

"Contractor pilots typically are assigned to the same program for many years and provide continuity," Colonel Bunch said. "Military pilots bring more recent operational experience and warfighters' perspective."

Colonel Kromberg said he was appreciative of this opportunity to fly the F-35.

"Though I am the first government pilot, this flight is really just a continuation of the ongoing successful test effort the contractor, government and partner countries take part in each day," Colonel Kromberg said. "I am very humbled at this opportunity to represent the Air Force as the first government F-35 pilot."

The F-35 is scheduled to arrive at Edwards AFB for further flight tests in the spring.

Note: This is a story from our archive originally published in 2008. It was produced by the US Air Force.

"The aircraft was responsive across all flight regimes," Colonel Kromberg said. "The engine thrust response was excellent -- accelerating very quickly. The aircraft was very stable during formation flight."