May 27, 2011 (by Andrea Watters) - Air Force maintainers are getting hands-on experience with the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter
F-35C CF-2, the second carrier variant arrives at NAS Patuxent River on May 16th, 2011 flown by Lt. Col. Matt Taylor during the 2.8-hour flight from NAS Fort Worth.
Seven Airmen from the 33rd Fighter Wing arrived recently to spend 75 days gaining first-hand experience maintaining the F-35B and F-35C variants, while those aircraft continue flight test and evaluation.
Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver the F-35A to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, later this year.
"It is beneficial working around the F-35B and F35-C variants," said Master Sgt. Timothy Weaver, a crew chief assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing. "With this being a joint program, we learn a lot about how each branch handles maintenance. We are learning how the Marines operate, how the Navy operates, and sharing how we operate."
The F-35C is distinct from the F-35A variant with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for greater control in the carrier-takeoff-and-landing environment.
However, the three variants are similar enough that the visiting maintainers will benefit from performing basic maintenance, such as refueling, launch and recovery, and tire changing -- all functions the Navy considers day-to-day maintenance, Sergeant Weaver said.
"The C and A variants have a lot of the same systems, but some of the parts are in different locations," Sergeant Weaver said.
The Eglin AFB
maintainers volunteered for this assignment, and Sergeant Weaver said his team looks for any opportunity to get their hands dirty, and when they can't, they are watching and gaining knowledge.
"There is always work going on," he said.