March 8, 2013 (by SrA Jack Sanders) - The day the Lightning aircraft maintenance unit members have been working towards for more than three years has arrived. The Airmen's work to improve their skills and prepare for the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II came to fruition March 6 with the arrival of two F-35 Lightning IIs.
One of two Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting IIs lands at Nellis AFB on March 6th, 2013. The aircraft, F-35A AF-21 (USAF serial no: #10-5009) assigned to the 422nd TES, has a maximum speed of more than Mach 1.6. [USAF photo by A1C. Christopher Tam]
The 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Lightning AMU has devoted their time and resources to ensure their Airmen are up to date with fundamental training and tactics with the Department of Defense's newest fifth generation airframe.
"We're doing all kinds of prep," said Tech. Sgt. Brian Sarafin, Lightning AMU F-35 dedicated crew chief. "We've sent [servicemembers] out to Patuxent River in Maryland, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Edwards AFB
in California all to get hands-on training because we didn't have the jets here yet."
While TDY, the AMU Airmen used the hands-on training to familiarize themselves with new maintenance procedures and software for the F-35.
"I've worked on F-15Cs and F-22s," Sarafin said. "The F-22 is what I've worked on the most, and there are a lot of similarities between the F-22 and F-35. I think [the F-35] is a great jet, its maintenance friendly, but there are a lot of new things."
Sarafin thought working on the two aircraft would be similar, but they're not.
"I've found there's going to be some challenges because we need a whole new way of thinking," he said. "Our maintenance documentation is a lot different [for] this jet, our training system - everything."
The AMU Airmen also had to learn how to use the Autonomic Logistics Information System to document all aircraft maintenance and training the maintainer receive.
"It's not just the aircraft that we're taking care of," he said.
The F-35s will be used for developmental test support, force development evaluation and support for the operational test aircraft at Edwards AFB where the initial operational test and evaluation program is run.
"The AMU [Airmen] are all handpicked, chosen by the maintenance leadership over the last couple of years to be the right team and they absolutely are, said Lt. Col. Kevin Wilson 53rd Wing chief of joint strike fighter integration. "They have been the most proactive team of maintainers in terms of getting themselves every possible bit of training and experience they could before the jets showed up."