F-35A maintainers, special ops team up for forward refueling

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Unread post02 Mar 2019, 10:57

F-35A maintainers, special ops team up for forward refueling
28 Feb 2019 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

"CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS)… For the first time, Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron and the 27th Special Operation Logistics Readiness Squadron at Cannon AFB, trained and carried out a Forward Air Refueling Point operation from the MC-130J Commando II to the F-35A Lightning II.

During this forward refueling scenario, an MC-130J lands at a remote airfield secured and managed by Air Force combat controllers. The C-130 crew, made up of loadmasters and fuels troops quickly set up equipment and fuel lines, then transfer fuel from the MC-130J to other aircraft landing behind them – in this case, an F-35A.

The training is a building block in adaptive basing development. Adaptive basing is a key component to providing air power in highly-contested modern warfare. To succeed, Airmen from different platforms and different specialties must train to work together effectively, planners said.

“We’re really experienced at FARP operations with fourth-generation aircraft like the F-16 (Fighting Falcon) and the A-10 (Thunderbolt II) but this is the first time we’ve done it with the F-35,” said Maj. Meghan O’Rourke, an MC-130J combat systems officer with the 9th Special Operations Squadron and one of the organizers of the exercise.

The 9th SOS has refueled F-22 Raptors and is traditionally a place where new operations are given a trial run, O’Rourke said. Expanding FARP operations with the F-35A will provide commanders more options in a near-pear fight where other support may be limited.

“Setting up a FARP gives us flexibility in planning because we now have the capability to land in a remote location, refuel, potentially re-arm and go take the fight to the enemy, and the F-35 can bring a lot to the fight.” said Lt. Col. Matthew Olsen, director of operations for the 421st Fighter Squadron and one of the F-35 pilots who flew to Cannon AFB.

The training brought together pilots, maintainers, special operators and planners.

The maintenance footprint for the training was adaptive too. A small group of Blended Operational Lightning Technicians from the 388th Maintenance Group traveled to Cannon AFB to provide training and support to the special operations airmen.

“It’s been very valuable to interface with the refueling troops and special-ops guys,” said Master Sgt. Dantorrie Herring, 388th MXG. “A lot of lessons learned and we demonstrated that we can do this with a small group of BOLT Airmen.”

Instead of bringing a group of 12 F-35A maintainers, Herring brought three F-35 BOLTs who are trained in multiple aspects of maintenance. In scenarios like FARP operations, the BOLT program can reduce manpower by more than 65 percent.

“If you think about doing this ‘real-world,’ we want the smallest footprint we can have,” Herring said. “With adaptive basing and BOLT you don’t have to send the whole unit.” "

Photo:"Lt. Col. Maxwell Cover, assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxis during Forward Area Refueling Point training at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Feb. 26, 2019. This was the first time FARP training was conducted by an MC-130J Commando II for the F-35A Lightning II aircraft as it expands its reach and capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman)" https://media.defense.gov/2019/Feb/27/2 ... 8-0465.JPG (4.6Mb)


Source: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display ... refueling/
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Unread post03 Mar 2019, 09:25

Very important skill for USAF to acquire. In any Westpac shooting wars, US tactical airpower will need to disperse to as many sites as possible and be highly mobile to constantly change operating locations within adversary OODA timeframes. Initiatives such as Rapid-X fighter deployments, Distributed STOVL Operations (DSO) and mobile FARPs makes Tacair survivable and effective till China's ballistic and cruise missiles stocks get depleted.

USAF should go one step further and exercise the launch and recovery of F-35s from roads and conceal them under trees. Such a tactic can make targeting them exponentially more difficult. The F-16 can do this, so I don't see why the F-35 cant' do the same. And once demonstrated, it takes one of the few advantages that Saab often hypes for its Gripen away.
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Unread post03 Mar 2019, 10:30

It can be done by any jet*, but yeah it might make sense to practice it. Any Baltic air patrol duty could include a such exercise in Finland or Estonia. Probably in Finland, because it's largely about having a proper basing setup (mobile maintenance and other necessary preparations to close the road). Carrier is much trickier, road bases are not really length-restricted.

*In Finland F-18 does it regularly, Swedish Gripens also took part last year after a long hiatus, In Singapore F-16 and F-15SG have done it, there's also some video footage of Russian jets doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR6yffOLq6w
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Unread post03 Mar 2019, 12:06

And ROCAF does it with Vipers, Mirage 2000-5 and F-CK-1s.
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Unread post07 Jun 2019, 17:45

Agile BOLT maintainers support F-35 deployment
05 Jun 2019 Micah Garbarino, 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

"AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) -- Maintainers in an innovative 388th Maintenance Group have taken two huge steps while developing a program that continues to push and streamline F-35A Lightning II sustainment.

These Blended Operational Lightning Technician or BOLT maintainers are currently deployed alongside the 421st Fighter Squadron during a Theater Security Package to Europe and they’ve sent the first 388th Fighter Wing maintainer to ever be qualified in six different aspects of F-35 maintenance.

The BOLT program combines maintenance-specific Air Force specialty codes, essentially job descriptions, into two career tracks. Maintainers in the air vehicle track are crew chiefs, fuels and low observable technicians. Airmen in the mission systems track focus on avionics, weapons and egress.

This training allows a single Airman to perform multiple inspections and do the associated work required in areas where they are qualified. They don’t have to wait for qualified Airmen from other specialties to complete inspections or any required fixes on the aircraft.

“The BOLT Airmen who are here with us offer widespread benefit. They will allow us to deploy the same aircraft with a smaller number of Airmen than we would at home station,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “This is a new way to train our Airmen to be more operationally focused and that ties directly to the primary mission sets of the F-35A.”

The goal of the BOLT program is less down time, more productivity and a smaller maintenance footprint required for each jet. Reducing the size of the maintenance force allows commanders more combat flexibility for quickly deploying a small number of aircraft to a remote airfield with fewer Airmen.

Succeeding in the program is challenging and can seem overwhelming because many Airmen want to be experts at everything as soon as they enter. But the ones who catch on are better equipped in their careers because this type of maintenance is “inevitable” in the future, said Master Sgt. Dantorrie Herring, BOLT lead.

Tech Sgt. Jesse Mitchell, currently deployed with the 421st Fighter Squadron05227 in support of the multinational exercise Astral Knight 2019, is the first maintainer to be qualified in all six functions. He is able to sign-off on fixes to any area that may be keeping a jet from flying. He's been a BOLT maintainer since January 2018.

“I love BOLT,” said Mitchell, a native of Wichita, Kansas. “I think it’s a personality thing. I don’t stagnate. It was a challenge learning all these different areas, but I studied. I got a lot of hands-on training from the experts in each area and it’s paid off.”

Mitchell, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon maintainer, entered the F-35 world as a crew chief, then learned avionics – basically all the “fun systems the pilots get to play with” – and just kept going until he had completed all the others: fuels, low-observable maintenance, weapons and egress. Now, he is able to clear a “red x” in any of those six systems and return a jet to flying status. It’s a rare achievement.

Currently, there are nearly 60 Airmen in the 388th Fighter Wing BOLT program.

“This is just a starting point for our BOLT maintainers,” Miles said. “We’ll be doing other things with them (throughout our time in Europe) and we’ll take the lessons learned and weave them into our planning for the next time we’re tasked.”"

Source: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display ... eployment/
RAN FAA A4G Skyhawk 1970s: https://www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ AND https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/
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Unread post07 Jun 2019, 19:56

I can guarantee that the advances in aircraft systems and materials are greatly responsible for the ability to cross train at a high level.

I remember being amazed and jealous of the tools that the first gen Hornet guys had at their disposal to troubleshoot gripes.

In the Tomcat we were still still dealing with octal based trouble codes displayed on the TID and old school bit tests.

In some cases bug chasing became an art and a bit of luck when changing out or re-seating a box cleared a code for absolutely no reasonable explanation.

It's about time we see the systems and tools that let us move on to the next level with our maintainers.
Hornets by mandate. Tomcats by choice!!
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Unread post19 Jul 2019, 20:27

Hill AFB Airmen expand F-35A combat capability in Rapid Forge
19 Jul 2019 Micah Garbarino, 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

"SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- Airmen from Hill Air Force Base’s fighter wings forward deployed the F-35A Lightning II to several locations in Europe as part of a joint readiness exercise. So far, operation Rapid Forge has seen F-35As, F-15E Strike Eagles and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft work together to land, refuel and rearm with inert munitions at forward airfields in Poland and operate out of Lithuania and Estonia in one day. “Rapid Forge is allowing us to stress test what, up until now, has only been a concept for the F-35A,” said Lt. Col. Maxwell Cover, F-35A pilot and project officer for Rapid Forge.

The goal is to expand the Air Force’s adaptive or agile basing ability, a concept in which aircraft operate from forward, temporary, sometimes contested locations. The ability to land, refuel and rearm at forward airfields gives commanders more flexibility to strike and limits enemies’ ability to target a stationary force. For the 388th Fighter Wing, the Air Force’s first operational F-35A unit, Rapid Forge is another piece of the F-35A “combat capability blueprint” that has been growing since the first aircraft arrived at Hill Air Force Base, said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We’ve come a long way with the F-35, and with Rapid Forge, we’re translating our expeditionary ideas into expeditionary actions,” Miles said.

During the exercise, an MC-130J Commando II landed at a remote airfield and the crew, made up of loadmasters and fuels troops, quickly sets up equipment and fuel lines. They then transfer fuel from the MC-130J to other aircraft landing behind them – in this case, an F-35A – while maintainers perform inspections and prepare to relaunch the aircraft. Cover said, for the pilots, landing at unfamiliar airfields in possibly contested environments during combat will take a lot of trust, and they are relying on their ground crews to get them turned quickly. Having the right people and equipment in place is essential.

“A lot of times logistics and sustainment may be simulated away in home-station exercises,” Miles said. “We can’t do that here. It’s important because history teaches us that logistics and supply wins and loses wars.”

Since the C-130 is carrying its own crew, along with munitions and fuel for the other aircraft, space onboard is at a premium. The F-35A maintenance footprint must be small. Blended Operational Lightning Technicians or BOLT, are Airmen in the 388th MXG who are cross-trained in several aspects of F-35A maintenance. Their presence allows for a 65% reduction in manpower. “It’s a very small team of Airmen,” Miles said. “That’s what the Air Force is asking for, agile combat deployment with hybrid Airmen who are able to do more than one thing. These BOLT Airmen can recover, inspect, service and launch.”

The Airmen, from the 388th and 419th FW, are currently deployed with the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, as part of a European Theater Security Package."

Photo: "Capt. Joseph Walz, 421st Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II pilot, prepares to taxi during operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019. The goal of the operation is to enhance interoperability with NATO allies and partners to improve combined operational capabilities. F-35s provide unmatched lethality, survivability and adaptability to war-fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)" https://media.defense.gov/2019/Jul/18/2 ... 0-0157.JPG (1.6Mb)

Source: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display ... pid-forge/
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Unread post26 Jul 2019, 10:39

F-35As and F-15Es in Ämari AB, in Estonia today, part of Rapid Forge:
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Unread post28 Jul 2019, 19:11

:devil: :devil: Another LIGHTING variant in YouRope…. :doh: :doh:
Operation Rapid Forge concludes
28 Jul 2019 Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

"SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- Operation Rapid Forge concluded July 25 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The 10-day operation helped ensure U.S. forces’ ability to fulfill the European Deterrence Initiative, a policy to assure and defend NATO allies, while promoting deterrence in an increasingly complex security environment.

Members of the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, set up a mobile command and control facility in a simulated austere environment. The 4th FW and the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah, used the C2 node throughout the operation for sorties as the U.S. forces practiced interoperability with NATO partners....

...Operating this way has resulted in the concept of the multifunctional Airman, an Airman who is trained to perform a variety of tasks, not just those within their specific specialty. Cover [U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Maxwell Cover, 421st EFS F-35A pilot] said the 421st EFS had a team of highly trained maintenance personnel at each training location for Operation Rapid Forge. Airmen were cross-trained into all the different F-35A maintenance functional areas. Instead of having seven to nine personnel to operate all the functional areas, two personnel can do all the F-35A servicing.

The 4th FW also discovered the concept of the multifunctional Airman to be beneficial.

Yates [U.S. Air Force Col. Donn Yates, 4th FW commander] said his base built their team towards the multifunctional Airman concept prior deploying to Operation Rapid Forge. He said for his team, the concept involved training Airmen to fuel jets, marshal aircraft, provide security and lead troops, among other skills.

This concept makes expeditionary operations like Rapid Forge possible.

“The multifunctional Airman concept is key to operating in an austere environment,” Cover said. “We want to minimize our footprint and change the calculus of where a potential adversary thinks we can operate. To do that, we are going to need to cut down the number of people we need to accomplish the mission and have more of a middleweight fighting force that is highly capable.”...

...“We came here to accomplish three objectives,” Yates said. “Get the team here in a very quick timeline, establish our air expeditionary wing and achieve training, and get everyone home safe. We have accomplished the first two objectives and are working on the third, so I consider Rapid Forge to be a huge success.”"

Photo: "An F-35A Lighting II, assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 23, 2019. Operation Rapid Forge aircraft deployed to train in coordination with NATO allies in the Baltics and Poland. The operation ensures the U.S. Air Force is engaged and ready with credible force to assure, deter and defend during a potential threat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)" https://media.defense.gov/2019/Jul/23/2 ... 3-0539.JPG (0.6 Mb)


Source: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display ... concludes/
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