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An F-35B Lightning II aircraft piloted by Maj. Jesse Peppers takes off from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, April 11. Peppers and the other F-35B Lightning II pilot instructors are training with Joint Direct Attack Munitions. After the instructors are proficient with JDAM they will add the ordnance to the syllabus for the F-35B training pilot program. The aircraft is with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, Marine Aircraft Group 31.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald

VMFAT-501 Marines hone skills during Instructor Pilot Proficieny Training

13 Apr 2017 | Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 conducted Instructor
Pilot Proficiency Training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, April 11. The instructor pilots are responsible for ensuring the F-35B Lightning II pilots are syllabus complete.
The IPP training covered the use of Joint Direct Attack Munitions. JDAM are additions to ordnance that use GPS to guide the projectile. The use of JDAM will be added to the F-35B training syllabus as a core competency.
“The syllabus is always changing,” said Maj. Jesse Peppers, an
F-35B pilot instructor with VMFAT- 501. “The next thing we want to add is the use of JDAM. So today, some of the instructors are going to practice with inert JDAM so they can be experienced with the use of the new munition. As instructors, we need to be proficient with all of the core competencies of the syllabus in order to teach transition and new pilots. It’s the same way on the other side of the house for the infantry Marines. If they want to use a new weapon, then the instructors at the School of Infantry would have to be proficient on it before teaching the students.”
The exercise started like any routine flight. The instructor dawned his gear and initiated pre-flight checks on his F-35B. After departing from MCAS Beaufort, the instructors flew to a range in North Carolina to drop the inert ordnance.
“We had to use a range in North Carolina because of some of the restrictions on the use of JDAM,” said Peppers. “It is a different experience using the JDAM than using simulated ordnance. You cannot simulate dropping ordnance. We can practice all we want on simulated munitions however, nothing can compare to the feeling of weapons bay doors opening and a piece of ordnance dropping out.”
The F-35B pilot training syllabus is very rigorous, covering core competencies from basic air maneuver to tactics and close air support. Adding JDAM to the core competency weapons employment will help the students get a feel for employing munitions from the F-35B.
“The students need to know how it feels to launch munitions,” said Peppers. “The new Category One pilots need it a little more than the transition pilots. The ordnance is held inside the F-35 so it’s different then the F/A- 18 Hornet aircraft or the AV-8B Harrier II. These new F-35B pilots will have all the tools they need to be successful when they leave MCAS Beaufort. They will be ready to operate as a new element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force and complete the Marine Corps mission.”

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