How fast can you solve a Rubik’s Cube? Now imagine the cube reaches more than 51 feet in length, 14 feet in height and 35 feet wide. Also, the cube has hundreds of squares, unlike Rubik’s traditional 54. Your only reprieve? This cube only has five colors, not six like the toy.
More than 90 people met Aug. 28 and 29 to take steps toward solving their version of the cube on Luke Air Force Base. The dimensions of their cube are those of the F-35, expected to arrive on base early next year. The sustainment readiness review, or SRR, discussed 11 benchmarks needed to ensure Luke is ready to receive the first of 144 Lockheed Martin Lightning IIs and ultimately train squadrons of pilots as it does today with the Fighting Falcon.
The conference included briefs from 18 topic areas key to meeting those benchmarks including pilot training, maintenance, security, logistics, health management and infrastructure, among others. The meetings gave the experts from each area an opportunity to speak face-to-face with their representatives from the Joint Program Office, Air Education and Training Command, Luke AFB and the foreign-nation partners.
“As I look out into the future, this is going to be a pretty amazing place,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Rothstein, 56th Fighter Wing commander, as he addressed the group. “Two, three or four years down the road, it may be unlike anything we’ve ever seen in terms of the partner training that will go on and the potential for other training on this base. With that though, comes great complexity and a lot of uncertainty. A lot of intellectual work needs to be done to make things come together.”
Fortunately, Rothstein and Luke AFB had some of the best minds available to work on the topic face-to-face, some of whom came from around the world. Those 90 minds included handfuls of chiefs, senior master sergeants and lieutenant colonels, at least 10 colonels and two general officers or civilian equivalents.
The brainpower available also included representatives from Australia, Norway and Italy. Australia will be the first F-35 partner nation on base when the jets arrive and their pilots will integrate with Luke’s upcoming 61st Fighter Squadron, much like Fighting Falcon pilots do today. Norwegian and Italian pilots will join the mix at Luke thereafter.
Rounding out the team included representatives from Lockheed Martin who designed the jet and Pratt & Whitney who developed the engine.
“The reason this SRR is so important is because of how many different groups are working on the project, whether it’s the wing, Lockheed Martin, AETC, the JPO or the partner nations, just to name a few,” said Maj. Ben Aronhime, 56th Training Squadron F-35 Training Development chief, who also worked to help coordinate the conference. “The real advantage to having everyone in the same room is that you get that subject matter expert briefing everybody his area impacts whether that’s manpower, contracting or quality assurance, for example.”
As the slides rolled on, presenters covered hundreds of areas that need to be tackled before the F-35 can start flying in the West Valley. Five different highlighted colors determined where each item stood, with the goal of making each area the right color – much like we try and do with a Rubik’s Cube.
The group then had the opportunity to address those items and come up with faster in-person solutions.
“This conference was our real, big primer for that first jet touching down here at Luke,” Aronhime said.
Luke’s full-time F-35 team noted that the wing is on track to receive the jet, the first step in training Lightning II pilots long into the future, as it has done with the F-16 for more than 30 years.
“Our final stages of preparation for Luke’s first F-35 are in full swing,” said Lt. Col. Scott Fredrick, 56th FW F-35 division chief. “Earlier this month the Air Force announced that the first F-35 squadron at Luke will be the 61st FS, which in the past was an F-16 squadron here. The squadron’s new commander and director of operations are current and qualified F-35 pilots and they arrived on base at the beginning of August as well to prepare their squadron for operations early next year.
“The first F-35 is scheduled to arrive in late January or early February depending on the production line at Fort Worth, Texas. All things look to be on schedule for the new addition to our flightline and the skies around the West Valley.”