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TWIN RECORD! Norway Welcomes First Female Fighter Pilot In 30 Years; Becomes The First To Fly F-35

Norway has recently marked a groundbreaking milestone within the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program as it commemorated the graduation of its first female fighter pilot in almost 30 years.

The skilled pilot, whose identity is kept confidential according to military protocol, is ready to enhance Norway’s air combat capabilities significantly. She holds the distinction of being the first Norwegian woman to pilot the F-35 fifth-generation fighter jet.

In a press release, the US Air Force said that the accomplished pilot has an extraordinary family connection to the US Air Force. This story intertwines with a historical chapter during the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. 

At that time, the US Army Air Force initiated the China Defensive Campaign, utilizing several airfields in mainland China for intelligence and reconnaissance missions over Japanese-held territories throughout the war. 

Col. Brad Orgeron, 80th Flying Training Wing commander, receives a photo book of Ankang Airfield from the grandfather of a Norwegian pilot graduate at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program. USAF

The pilot’s grandfather, the son of missionaries in China, resided close to Ankang airfield during this period. As a seven-year-old, he developed close relationships with numerous US service members stationed at Ankang. 

However, a rabid dog bit the young boy, and there was no anti-rabies serum available in that region. Faced with this critical situation, a US officer instructed one of his pilots to retrieve the serum, emphasizing that the pilot shouldn’t return without it. 

After an arduous four-day journey spanning Chengdu, Kunming, and ultimately reaching Calcutta, the pilot secured the serum.

The administration of this medicine effectively neutralized the rabies virus, saving the boy’s life and allowing him to grow up, have children, and eventually grandchildren, including the current pilot graduate.

On the momentous graduation day, the pilot’s grandfather visited Sheppard Air Force Base to express gratitude to another US military aviator. 

Colonel Brad Orgeron, the commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing and ENJJPT, received a heartfelt gift from the Norwegian family — a photo album documenting Ankang airfield from 1942 to 1945. 

These images were given to the young boy after his recovery, and in later years, he transformed them into digital files, creating a small booklet that detailed the experiences of those years in China. 

At the graduation ceremony, Col. Orgeron emphasized the significance of the grandfather’s story, highlighting the graduating class’s vast opportunities within the NATO alliance. 

He stressed that the pilot’s role would take her across the globe, enabling her to experience unpredictable and remarkable adventures. He expressed a keen desire to relive such experiences if given the chance.

Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT)

The Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT), administered by the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, operates as the world’s sole internationally staffed and managed flying training initiative dedicated explicitly to producing combat pilots for NATO. 

Formally known as the 80th FTW within the US Air Force, ENJJPT embodies a collaborative endeavor that emerged in the early 1970s, rooted in the spirit of NATO and the goal of improving the interoperability of allied air forces.

The program’s origins trace back to 1973 when rising pilot training costs and challenges in weather conditions and airspace restrictions prompted several European nations to explore the feasibility of a consolidated undergraduate flying training program. 

In response, the United States, along with the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, and Canada, proposed a joint initiative to resolve these issues. 

Following comprehensive evaluations, the United States was selected in 1978 to host ENJJPT due to its optimal combination of favorable weather, ample training airspace, existing facilities, and capacity for meeting the proposed annual requirements.

The multi-national effort thoroughly assessed Sheppard AFB’s facilities and the 80th FTW’s existing pilot training for the German and Dutch air forces. 

2nd Lt. Ryan Potter, an 80th Flying Training Wing Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program student pilot, flies a T-6A Texan II during a training sortie near Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, in late August 2020. Potter and 18 other ENJJPT Class 20-04 members graduated on April 10, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Ryan Potter)

Defense Secretary Harold Brown announced Sheppard as the chosen site in 1980, leading to the official opening of the ENJJPT Program in October 1981.

Since then, the program has undergone several extensions, welcoming Romania as its 14th partner in 2016 and extending its duration through 2026.

One of ENJJPT’s distinguishing features lies in its uniquely structured multi-national leadership. The organization is headed by a USAF wing commander and vice commander, along with an operations group commander, whose nationality rotates based on country participation. 

The program also showcases a blend of officers from all 14 participating nations occupying various leadership positions, reflecting a fully integrated and diverse structure.

Countries such as Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, and the United States contribute instructor pilots based on their student pilot count, while others provide at least one instructor pilot.

ENJJPT operates four distinct training programs: Undergraduate Pilot Training, Pilot Instructor Training, Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals, and IFF Upgrade Instructor Pilot training. 

Approximately 200 student pilots graduate annually from the 55-week, three-phased training regimen, alongside the training of about 80 new instructor pilots and the transition of up to 150 pilots through IFF each year, all supported by a dedicated team of over 1,400 military, civilian, and contracted personnel operating 201 training aircraft.

The program’s numerous advantages encompass cost efficiency, an improved training environment, standardized practices, and enhanced interoperability.

Yet, beyond these benefits, ENJJPT fosters a crucial sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among all its participants, laying the groundwork for future leaders of NATO’s air forces to collaborate effectively should the need arise. 

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