USA — F-35 training center begins formal training

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) — While cel­e­brat­ing each F-35 Light­ning II arrival, the inte­grat­ed joint strike fight­er train­ing team also recent­ly opened the doors for the first Air Force cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cours­es on the logis­ti­cal sup­port behind the nation’s newest weapons plat­form.

Tech. Sgt. Bran­don Sul­li­van uses a portable main­te­nance device loaded with joint tech­ni­cal data that’s plugged into an F-35 Light­ning II train­er April 3, 2012, dur­ing a weapons famil­iar­iza­tion course at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 17-day course was the first weapons course com­plet­ed since Eglin AFB’s F-35 Aca­d­e­m­ic Train­ing Cen­ter began for­mal train­ing Mar 19. Sul­li­van is an air­craft arma­ment sys­tems tech­ni­cian assigned to the 33rd Air­craft Main­te­nance Squadron at Eglin AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Karen Roganov)
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The 33rd Fight­er Wing has eight basic famil­iar­iza­tion cours­es now in ses­sion at the aca­d­e­m­ic train­ing cen­ter with cours­es cur­rent­ly sched­uled through ear­ly next year. Approx­i­mate­ly 100 main­te­nance stu­dents from three branch­es of ser­vice began the inau­gur­al class­es March 19.

“This is huge­ly sig­nif­i­cant for all ser­vices because we are get­ting our main­tain­ers prepped for when we are ful­ly stood-up for F-35 train­ing in the near future,” said Col. Andrew Toth, the 33rd FW com­man­der. “The class­es are anoth­er excit­ing step for­ward in the 2012 exe­cu­tion year for F-35 train­ing.”

Every step has an effect on the future of these new pro­grams.

“What we do now hinges on the progress of joint tech­ni­cal data ver­i­fi­ca­tion for the F-35’s main­te­nance pro­ce­dures, vir­tu­al-real­i­ty train­er soft­ware val­i­da­tions and upgrades, as well as course deliv­ery meth­ods com­ing online,” said Senior Mas­ter Sgt. Richard Brown, the F-35 ATC super­in­ten­dent. “Up until this point, we’ve been con­duct­ing small group try outs with the inte­grat­ed main­te­nance team here to ver­i­fy the sys­tem is meet­ing the require­ments need­ed.”

After the team’s try-out process was com­plet­ed, ATC per­son­nel were able to offer Air Force stu­dents their first cer­tifi­cate of com­ple­tion in F-35 cours­es for struc­tures, avion­ics, weapons and crew chief career fields. Crew chiefs assigned to the wing already gained famil­iar­iza­tion of flight line tasks and per­formed duties on the flight line asso­ci­at­ed with gen­er­at­ing sor­ties. Sea­soned main­tain­ers cross­ing over to the new air­craft plat­form were select­ed to attend the first class­es. Marine Corps stu­dents hail from careers in ord­nance, avion­ics, pow­er line and air­frames. To share the resources of instruc­tors and train­ers, the ATC runs two class shifts with sched­ules occa­sion­al­ly end­ing as late as 1 a.m.

“The piple­line stu­dents, those learn­ing to be main­tain­ers, are antic­i­pat­ed to train at the ATC ear­ly 2014,” Brown said. “Most of the stu­dents going through will be instruc­tors when they stand up field train­ing detach­ments.”

At the ATC, stu­dents have access to com­put­er sim­u­la­tors tout­ing near-real­is­tic inter­ac­tion with the jet aid­ed by a dig­i­tal “avatar.” Addi­tion­al­ly, vir­tu­al train­ing is pro­vid­ed on life-size mock-ups of F-35 com­po­nents.

Lock­heed Martin’s F-35 plat­form includes the air­craft itself as well as the logis­tics and sus­tain­ment sup­port sys­tems, designed to keep each plane in the air and ful­ly oper­a­tional. Course­ware is built using a flex­i­ble mod­u­lar design, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to train war fight­ers from three dif­fer­ent ser­vices and eight inter­na­tion­al part­ners on three F-35 vari­ants with­out cre­at­ing mul­ti­ple train­ing suites of vari­ant-spe­cif­ic hard­ware and soft­ware, accord­ing to Lock­heed Martin’s web­site. This total train­ing solu­tion lets trainees get immersed in the vir­tu­al expe­ri­ence before mov­ing to the real thing.

Stu­dents cur­rent­ly enrolled are going through the phas­es of train­ing designed by ATC per­son­nel.

“The first week of train­ing for all spe­cial­ties is basi­cal­ly the same,” said Bri­an Vohl, a Lock­heed Mar­tin weapons instruc­tor. “The desk­top train­ers, such as the Air­craft Sys­tems Main­te­nance Train­er, require each stu­dent to fol­low the pro­ce­dures of check­ing out vir­tu­al tools, read­ing the main­te­nance check­lists and indi­vid­u­al­ly per­form­ing each task.”

After ASMT train­ing, the stu­dents break off into their spe­cif­ic dis­ci­plines to train vir­tu­al­ly at the ATC before head­ing out to the oper­a­tional side of the wing where the fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­er is housed with each service’s fly­ing squadron.

“You can read about it all day, but you actu­al­ly need a feel for the air­craft, work envi­ron­ment and know how the parts of the jet move,” said Staff Sgt. Fran­tavi­ous Doo­ley, a weapons crew chief assigned to the 57th Air­craft Main­te­nance Squadron at Nel­lis AFB, Nev.

The class­room expe­ri­ence com­bined with flight line oper­a­tions are ben­e­fi­cial for learn­ing about air­craft safe­ty, in par­tic­u­lar the warn­ings and pre­cau­tions out­lined in the joint tech­ni­cal, he said.

Class­mates from Air Force flight test units will take lessons learned here home to imple­ment F-35 sus­tain­ment at their units. Hill AFB, Utah, is slat­ed to be a depot main­te­nance site and Nel­lis AFB and Edwards AFB are oper­a­tional test sites.

“I like the process; the new approach is 100-per­cent com­pli­ant with learn­ing tasks,” said Tech. Sgt. Johnathan Mey­er, an F-35 weapons instruc­tor assigned to the 359th Train­ing Squadron here. “Fin­ish­ing off the com­pre­hen­sive approach to train­ing, the stu­dent gets air­craft hands-on train­ing at an active flight line.”

Mey­er said he attend­ed the ATC weapons class to eval­u­ate and lend feed­back of the over­all train­ing pro­gram based on his five-year exper­tise as an instruc­tor for Air Force main­te­nance tech­ni­cal train­ing.

“When train­ing is in full swing, approx­i­mate­ly 2,100 main­tain­ers and 100 pilot stu­dents can be processed through the ATC annu­al­ly, with 900 peo­ple at any giv­en time on cam­pus,” Toth said. “Class­es last from one to three months depend­ing upon the course.”

U.S. Air Force