June 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy announced the first use of the F-35C fighter plane in two pilots' successful completion of the TOPGUN training program.
Maj. Derek Heinz and Lt. William Goodwin completed the 13-week Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor course at the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center of Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., the Navy announced on Tuesday.
It is the first time TOPGUN has graduated students flying the F-35C Lightning II, a variant of the aircraft regarded as the world's most advanced fighter plane.
A syllabus, involving classroom lectures, simulated flying and actual live-fly events, was created for the use of the plane. The instructor course is used to develop skills of pilots, and help integrate the plane into strike groups of older planes.
"The Lightning II proved its value to the Navy during every phase of the TOPGUN course, and its integration with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, E/A-18G Growler and E-2C/D Hawkeye demonstrated that the powerful combination of 4th and 5th generation fighters, with advanced electronic attack, and command and control, is a force-multiplier against advanced threats," Cmdr. Timothy Myers, NAWDC TOPGUN chief, said in a press release.
With certifications as instructors, Heinz and Goodwin will train other F-35C pilots at Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif., where the Navy's F-35C fleet squadron is located.
"This tremendous accomplishment is yet another step for the F-35C community as we continue to focus on delivering this game-changing aircraft to the Fleet," said Capt. Adan Covarrubias, Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing.
"The graduates of the first F-35C TOPGUN class are back in Lemoore instructing VFA-147 [Strike Fighter Squadron 147] in the latest tactics that will, in turn, be brought to the fight during Carrier Air Wing Two's first deployment with the Navy's Joint Strike Fighter," Covarrubias said.