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Hill fixes damaged Egyptian aircraft

February 3, 2005 (by Kari Tilton) - A severely damaged Egyptian F-16 will soon return to its home country, in next-to-new condition, after undergoing a complicated four-year overhaul by a team of specialized aircraft repair experts here.

Egypt AF #9502 [LMTAS photo]

The Egyptian air force purchased the aircraft through the United States foreign military sales program several months before the crash. Wanting to salvage their investment, they turned to the Ogden Air Logistics Center's 649th Combat Logistics Support Squadron. The jet arrived at Hill in the summer of 2000 under contract for the repair work through FMS. The Egyptian air force covered all the parts and labor expenses for the repair work.

"This was an outstanding opportunity for both the Egyptian and U.S. governments in that Egypt was able to return one of their front-line fighters to service while the U.S. Air Force gained valuable experience in repairing crash-damaged aircraft," said Lt Col. Michael Moore, 649th CLSS commander.

"Our experts are recognized worldwide because of their specialized capabilities and vast contacts throughout the F-16 world," said Colonel Moore.

The 649th CLSS is the only active Air Force unit that can restore crash-damaged F-16s and is one of only a handful of organizations across the globe that has the skills and experience to do this type of complex work.

The squadron is made up of 209 expert aircraft battle damage repair, crash damage repair, and depot field teams who support Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F-117 Nighthawk aircraft along with U.S. and Foreign Military Sales F-16 Fighting Falcons.

"We rebuild to the extreme," said Master Sgt. Chad Brown, 649th CLSS structural technician and maintenance supervisor for the project. "We can tear a jet in half and build it back up again."

The 649th CLSS is combat-ready and worldwide deployable, but completes depot-level work here to keep their technician's skills sharp.

Shortly after the Egyptian F-16 (F-16C #93-0525 - 9979) crashed, a small team of 649th CLSS technicians traveled to the Middle-Eastern country to survey the damage and determine the cost and man-hours associated with the fix.

The estimated repair cost was nearly $3.2 million ? a bargain since a new F-16 fresh off the Lockheed-Martin production line costs more than $30 million.

The jet's nose, main landing gear and engine intake sustained wide-spread damage and was burned by the pilot's ejection seat.

More than 80 crew chiefs, structural, electrical and fuels specialists replaced 21 structural components and six major electronic components. The team also replaced the front end of the aircraft and rebuilt the entire cockpit as well as the aircraft's main landing gear bulkhead.

The team's work was often slowed due to low availability of critical aircraft parts.

The Egyptian jet was tailor-made by Lockheed-Martin and contained different hardware and software than those in the U.S. Air Force fleet.

"It took about 18 months alone for us to get the forward fuselage," said Master Sergeant Clink Wyrick, the squadron's lead production supervisor.

The team worked through the Ogden ALC's Egyptian foreign military sales program manager here to locate available parts within the Egyptian air force's supply system. The 649th also ordered parts through various contractors and were sometimes forced to get creative.

"We couldn't find anyone who could make an ejection system, so we took one from the bone yard (at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.) for modification by the Maintenance Directorate egress shop here," Sergeant Brown said.

The 649th CLSS also relied on the Maintenance Directorate's fabrication shop to create a specially-made canopy.

"By leveraging their expertise, our teams can find scarce parts, or fabricate parts, to avoid work delays," Colonel Moore said.

Even with the complicated nature of the project, the 649th CLSS team has managed to stay under budget, spending $1 million less than expected - a superior accomplishment, says their squadron commander.

"This is important because we're keeping a promise to a foreign partner to deliver war-winning capabilities, on-time, and at the lowest possible cost," Colonel Moore said.

The newly refurbished aircraft has recently taken to the air for functional flight checks.

"It's always a thrill to see the aircraft we repair get off the ground. It gives us a great sense of accomplishment and a sense of appreciation for all the people that helped get it there," Sergeant Brown added.

Courtesy of Ogden ALC Public Affairs

Additional images:

Egypt AF #9951 & #9952 [LMTAS photo]