If asked what their motto is, the 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit would likely say, “Busy as a bee,” or in this case Vespa Maculata, the unit symbol for hornet.29-07-2003 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AETCNS) -- The saying has served them well while they continue to prepare for the F/A-22 Raptor arrival later this year.
Members of the 43rd AMU are not sitting idly by, despite the projected September or October delivery date.
“Even though aircraft delivery delays will impact training, we’re flexible enough to incorporate target-of-opportunity training to make up for as much lost time as possible,” said Master Sgt. Richard Street, 43rd AMU section chief. “The delay has afforded us additional time to get our flights and programs up and functioning.”
The original eight-person unit expanded to 25 and has already established the template and standards by which combat air forces will maintain the Raptors. The 43rd AMU has divided its operations and maintenance functions and works closely with contractors in designing and building the new facilities to support the F/A-22.
Maintainers are currently involved in establishing maintenance flights and their related programs, forecasting future manning requirements, working with the local training detachment to define training needs, and traveling to future F/A-22 sites as part of a site activation task force to work through any potential issues or concerns.
All this is aimed at effectively scheduling and maintaining a healthy fleet of new aircraft for sortie generation. Lessons are being learned from those already flying and maintaining the jet.
“Our biggest challenge will be to capture the lessons from Nellis Air Force Base and Edwards AFB and use them to improve our programs,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Harrigian, 43rd Fighter Squadron commander.
“We’ve got world-class maintainers here, from the folks working on the F-15s to our F/A-22 maintainers,” Colonel Harrigian said. “They’ve proven time and time again that they have what it takes to deliver top-notch aircraft on time, and then if the aircraft has a problem, repair it in minimum time.”
Maintaining the Raptor will be a departure from the F-15 in both operations and maintenance.
“Every aspect will be different, from technical data to support equipment to maintainer and air vehicle interface,” Sergeant Street said. “The F/A-22 was designed with ease of maintenance in mind coupled with enhanced system and sub-system component life, which means fewer repairs and less time out of commission.”
Because maintainers were included early on in the design process for the F/A-22, they quickly established a strong foothold. To improve turnaround, the maintainers insisted on extensive self-diagnostics for the various subsystems.
This means virtually every piece of hardware in the aircraft either does its own health checks or reports when it has failed. It is reasoned that if the airplane knows so much about itself, then that capability can be leveraged to help both the maintainer and the pilot.
The F/A-22 has a design aimed at gathering and processing information for the pilots’ tactical purposes and fully utilizing its advanced airframe and avionics systems, most notably in the exponential increase in computer power.
The aircraft’s main mission computers operate at 10.5 billion instructions per second with 300 megabytes of memory. These numbers represent 100,000 times the computing speed and 8,000 times the memory of the Apollo moon lander. All this technology though, could not be sustained without the assistance of a top-notch maintenance unit.
“We, as pilots, could not fly a jet without our maintainers,” Colonel Harrigian said. “With a brand new aircraft, it is imperative that we work hand-in-hand with them to learn about the aircraft and as the program matures, that we capture every lesson to improve both our training skills.”
“I think we’ll surprise a lot of people by what the aircraft can actually do,” Sergeant Street said. “Then we’ll be able to focus on the bottom line, pilot training and enhanced combat capability.”
To enhance training capability for F/A-22 pilots, the 43rd AMU continues to help resolve reliability and maintainability issues with systems engineers and manufacturers at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, Ga. After the assembly of the first operational F/A-22s began and the assembly of the mid-fuselage was completed, the aircraft were delivered to Lockheed Martin.
This facility is responsible for attachment of the aircraft forward fuselage, wings, aft fuselage, and vertical and horizontal tails as well as its F-119 engines. When the aircraft are delivered to Tyndall, the 43rd AMU will take over the majority of the aircraft’s maintenance requirements.
“I expect that we’ll have new challenges with the F/A-22, but we’ve got highly knowledgeable and motivated folks,” Colonel Harrigian said. “These are the right people to prepare, turn and repair Raptors.”
Source: Christine Sullivan - 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs