August 2, 2007 (by A1C Jacob Corbin) - The world of F-22 Raptor maintenance is becoming as high-tech as the sophisticated fighter itself.
Mock up F-22 frame for training at Sheppard AFB, Texas photographed on July 19, 2007.
Because of new equipment called Portable Maintenance Aids, or PMAs, maintainers here have vastly improved capabilities over past procedures and the initial skills training will reflect this advanced technology.
Tech. Sgt. John Jefferson, an F-22 crew chief instructor with the 362nd Training Squadron here, is one of the advisors helping set up Sheppard's new F-22 initial skills maintenance training.
The 13-year Air Force veteran, who started as a tactical aircraft maintenance apprentice in 1994, said the training new students are in for is a far cry from what was available when he was a young Airman.
"It's night and day from when I was here for training," Sergeant Jefferson said. "This course will definitely give them more realistic training because of state-of-the-art maintenance training devices and the most advanced technological training features available."
The PMAs are essentially laptop computers, but their practical applications are very operational, according to Sergeant Jefferson.
"Maintainers can plug the PMA into the aircraft and review aircraft consumables for proper servicing (such as fuel quantity and oil levels), diagnose problems, download fault codes, and perform APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) ground operation -- which allows a single technician to do things like open and close weapons bay doors and extend launchers for inspection," Sergeant Jefferson said, adding that at least one other technician would be required to complete those actions if not for the PMA.
But the PMAs are just one facet of this high-tech training designed to provide technical training students with the tools they need to arrive at their first duty stations "mission ready."
Incoming trainees will learn in new, high-tech classrooms at the F-22 Raptor Maintenance Training Facility located at Sheppard. The classrooms will feature mock-up trainers that are fully functional representations of F-22 parts -- such as cockpit and landing gear, engines and rear sections, according to Tech. Sgt. David Greenlee, a Raptor avionics instructor with the 365th Training Squadron.
A total of eight trainers will be used in place of actual aircraft, because at a price tag of nearly $146 million, the Raptor would not be cost effective as a training aid.
Each of the trainers will be hooked up to both a student station featuring cockpit controls related to that portion of the aircraft and an instructor station which allows the instructor to control the trainer's systems and functions. Instructors will also have the ability to monitor individual students' work stations to view exactly what each student is doing in real time -- which allows the instructor to give advice based on what he sees.
"If an instructor sees an issue that might require more explanation, he can either address it with one particular student or use the classroom projector to show the entire classroom what's going on," Sergeant Jefferson said.
Since students will train with the PMAs and aircraft mock-up trainers, they will graduate the 60-day course and arrive in the combat Air Force already familiar with current maintenance procedures and tools.
The Raptor Maintenance Training Facility is a $21 million, 122,000-square-foot building which will house all of the Air Force's F-22 initial skills maintenance training, according to Richard Engle, Sheppard's F-22 program director. This training includes crew chiefs, avionics specialists, armament specialists, egress specialists, engine maintainers, and fuels specialists.
The first classes of maintainers are scheduled to begin "training as they fight" in January 2008.
(Tech. Sgt. Mike Hammond, Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs, contributed to this report)