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First F-35 arrives at Eglin

F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  Aircraft 0747 is DoD’s newest aircraft.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. Aircraft 0747 is DoD’s newest aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter touches down at its new home, the 33rd Fighter Wing July 14 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter touches down at its new home, the 33rd Fighter Wing July 14 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

A 33rd Fighter Wing maintainer watches as the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter taxis in to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

A 33rd Fighter Wing maintainer watches as the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter taxis in to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, taxis his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, taxis his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, taxis across the 33rd Fighter Wing flightline at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, taxis across the 33rd Fighter Wing flightline at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, taxis his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, taxis his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, taxis in to its new home, the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, taxis in to its new home, the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, taxis his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, taxis his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Maintainers from the 33rd Fighter Wing hold DoD’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, on the taxiway after its arrival to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Maintainers from the 33rd Fighter Wing hold DoD’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, on the taxiway after its arrival to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, taxis in to its new home, the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, taxis in to its new home, the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  Aircraft 0747 is DoD’s newest aircraft.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. Aircraft 0747 is DoD’s newest aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, looks at the monitor in his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, after piloting it to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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The Air Force’s first joint strike fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, looks at the monitor in his squadron’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, after piloting it to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

A 33rd Fighter Wing maintainer moves by DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, before giving the order to taxi at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.   This marks the first JSF aircraft to arrive to its new home, the 33rd FW.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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A 33rd Fighter Wing maintainer moves by DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, before giving the order to taxi at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. This marks the first JSF aircraft to arrive to its new home, the 33rd FW. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Tech. Sgt. Brian West, of the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshals in DOD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to a stop at its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  West is the crew chief for the first F-35.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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Tech. Sgt. Brian West, of the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshals in DOD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to a stop at its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. West is the crew chief for the first F-35. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Members of the 33rd Fighter Wing came out to see DoD’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, when it arrived to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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Members of the 33rd Fighter Wing came out to see DoD’s newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, when it arrived to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, marshals his aircraft to a stop for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  Aircraft 0747 is DoD’s newest aircraft.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief, Tech. Sgt. Brian West, marshals his aircraft to a stop for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. Aircraft 0747 is DoD’s newest aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, passes his helmet to a maintainer after bringing the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, passes his helmet to a maintainer after bringing the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, talks with his squadron and wing commanders after piloting the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, talks with his squadron and wing commanders after piloting the first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Tech. Sgt. Brian West, the crew chief for DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, salutes the pilot who brought it to its new home, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, July 14 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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Tech. Sgt. Brian West, the crew chief for DoD's newest aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, salutes the pilot who brought it to its new home, Lt. Col. Eric Smith, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, July 14 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- DoD's first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft touched down at its new home here July 14, marking a major milestone in the nation's military history.

Upon arrival, AF-9 officially became part of the Air Force inventory. It now belongs to the JSF training unit, the 33rd Fighter Wing.

Flying it in was Lt. Col. Eric Smith of the 58th Fighter Squadron, the first Air Force qualified F-35 pilot.

"It was a smooth ride in," said the colonel of the hour and 40 minute flight. "The jet behaved awesomely. I'm just so proud to bring it home to Eglin."

A crowd of anxious 33rd FW people braved the 90 degree heat to watch the fifth generation fighter touchdown and taxi in. Col. Andrew Toth, the 33rd Fighter Wing commander, was the first to greet his pilot upon arrival.

"It's an exciting day here at the wing, where our joint and integrated team has been preparing for this day since October 2009," said Toth. "I have no doubt the caliber of the Airmen, Sailors, Marines and contractors will provide safe and effective training operations at Eglin. Now we look forward to the start of classes later this year."

Pilot and maintenance training is on the schedule for tail number 747. Now that the aircraft is on station, F-35 maintainers will train and be certified here at home.

"It's pretty exciting," said Tech. Sgt. Brian West, the crew chief for the new aircraft. "We're thrilled to be able to train with one of our own."

As the world's first multi-role stealth fighter, the JSF is known for its superior range, cutting-edge avionics and next-generation sensor fusion. Each model shares breakthroughs in combat performance, survivability and support, while each is specifically tailored for unique service needs.

This next-generation belongs to the 58th FS. Squadron commander, Lt. Col. J.D. Wilbourne, was thrilled to see his first aircraft arrive, one day before his change of command.

"This is the best week ever," said the commander, who flew chase with 0747 in an F-16 Fighting Falcon. "This aircraft ensures air dominance for the next 30 years and today marks the first step toward that goal."