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Nov 14 2023

Video: Where NATO's fighter pilots are born

There’s something that fighter pilots from Belgium, Denmark, Germany and 11 other NATO Allies have in common: their flying careers started in Texas, USA. 

That’s where the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) programme has been training pilots since the early 80s, when a number of countries decided to found the programme at Sheppard Air Force Base. While conceived of as a cost-saving measure, giving Allies the chance to pool resources in the resource-intensive task of training new fighter pilots, this training has since become a place for students and instructors to pass on tactics and form multinational relationships that will span their careers. 

Allies contributing to this training are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Türkiye, the United Kingdom and the United States. Throughout the course, students learn the fundamentals of flight, progressing from ground school to the prop-driven T-6 Texan trainer - and finally to the T-38 Talon, a supersonic jet trainer that prepares them for the physical and mental strain of flying tactical aircraft. With 12-hour working days and plenty of bookwork to supplement the flying, this course ensures that only the most skilled and most dedicated graduate serve as fighter pilots in their country’s air forces. 

This video follows Royal Danish Air Force Lieutenant Bun and Belgian Air Force Lieutenant Jade. Having since completed the programme, Bun is now training to fly C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, while Jade is preparing to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Future generations of Belgian pilots will also have the chance to fly the F-35 Lightning II, as Belgium is in the process of adding these assets to its fleet. The first F-35A jet will enter service at Luke Air Force Base in the United States in 2024, and at Florennes Air Base in Belgium from 2025 onwards.

Video by NATO HQ

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