First F-35A GBU-12 Load, 33rd FW Published March 3, 2016 By 1st Lt Jenny Hyden 33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Florida -- On Thursday, 3 March, 2016, at 2 a.m., 33rd Fighter Wing maintainers loaded four GBU-12 munitions into F-35A Lighting II aircraft for the first time, here. Airmen from the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons section loaded the guided munitions in preparation for pilots to launch them from the F-35A later Thursday morning. “For us weapons loaders it’s a really exciting moment for us all, this is what we’re trained to do” said TSgt Robert Beltran, 58th AMU weapons expediter, “We’ve looked forward to doing this for a long time.” The weapons drop was originally scheduled for late spring of this year, but innovation and persistence from 33rd FW pilots and maintainers allowed for an earlier launch of the munitions. “There was a lot of work that went into making this weapons drop happen,” said Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander. “We had some sharp folks from the squadron and the maintenance side who put their heads together to make the modifications and the funding come together for this drop to happen safely and ahead of schedule.” Until Thursday, the launch of munitions from the aircraft was simulated. Thursday marks the first load and release of GBU-12s for the 33rd FW F-35A, but the weapons load crews honed their skills daily and in quarterly load crew competitions in preparation for this milestone. “Mainly we just want to provide our pilots with a safe, reliable aircraft so they can get their mission done,” said Beltran. As the Air Force advances to Initial Operational Capability for the F-35A in late 2016, the lessons learned at the 33rd FW will continue to shape the training of the Airmen who maintain and pilot the aircraft. “We look forward to loading more munitions, dropping more bombs and getting the mission accomplished,” said Beltran.