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​Student pilots in the Air Force’s first F-35 Lightning II basic flight course class took to the skies for the first time as they entered the live flying portion of their training Feb. 8, 2017 at Luke AFB, Ariz. Courtesy photo.

​The Air Force’s first class of solely operational combat F-35A pilots flew for the first time on Feb. 8. The basic flight course, or B-course, pilots, training in the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., began the live flying part of training after two months of classroom instruction, according to a Luke release. Previous classes in training at Luke have included instructor pilots. For the next six months, the pilots will train on basic air-to-air, air-to-ground combat, and low-visibility flying. The group of pilots, once they graduate, will move on to operational F-35 squadrons for more advanced training. “It’s a big deal to be able to train pipeline students on the F-35 and know that they’ll soon be mission-ready when they walk out of here,” said Maj. Joshua Larsen, executive officer and instructor pilot with the 56th Fighter Wing. “It’s a unique opportunity and it’s an exciting time to be in the jet.”