Australia’s first F-35A pilot, squadron leader Andrew Jackson, took his first flight in an F-35A at Eglin AFB, Fla., Australia’s Department of Defence said on Friday.

The flight test took place on Wednesday in a U.S. Air Force F-35A because Australian F-35As are currently at Luke AFB, Ariz., in anticipation of the international pilot training center in mid-2015. Jackson is to continue his training for several months.

The Air Force's F-35A conventional variant. Photo: Air Force.
The Air Force’s F-35A conventional variant. Photo: Air Force.

The First F-35A is set to arrive in Australia at the end of 2018 with the first squadron operational in 2020, the Australian Defence Department said. The F-35A is planned to replace Australia’s F/A-18A/B Hornets at Royal Australian Air Force Bases Williamtown and Tindal.

Separately, the 56th Fighter Wing began training new F-35 pilots on Wednesday at Luke, the U.S. Air Force said on Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, the 56th Fighter Wing commander, flew the first training sortie in an F-35.

The first class of student pilots are to start training at the Academic Training Center on May 4. Pleus is set to complete training and join the first set of instructor pilots training the first class of students.

The 61st Fighter Squadron is the first squadron of the 56th Fighter Wing scheduled to complete F-35 flying training for future instructor, operation, and test pilots. The squadron is also planned to train partner nations and follow-on Air Force pilots.

“Our 23 instructor pilots are honing instructional skills while exercising all the aircraft capabilities and our maintenance professionals continue to refine training processes and convert maintainers from all over the Air Force into F-35 experts,” Lt. Col. Michael Ebner, 61st Fighter Squadron commander, said in a statement.

The first F-35 arrived at Luke on March 10, 2014, and is set to reach the 1,000th F-35 sortie in the next few weeks.

There are 20 F-35s assigned to Luke, with two belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force, one of the F-35 pilot training partner nations.