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March 1, 2019
 

Luke F-35 weapons load crew capabilities enhanced through total force training

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Staff Sgt. Jenna Bigham
Luke AFB, Ariz.

The F-35A Lightning II sits in a hangar loaded with dummy external munitions, Feb. 13, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The F-35 brings together strategic international partnerships and alliances, where it will employ a variety of US and allied weapons.

It’s a phrase often heard around the Air Force, “We train like we fight”, and this time, it came from the weapons community in what’s commonly referred to as the “Weapons Load Barn”.

A team of four Air Reserve Technicians from the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, brought a fighting mentality and increased lethality to Luke. Thirty-nine personnel from the 56th Aircraft and Component Maintenance Squadrons received three days of training on installing external aircraft maintenance equipment on the F-35A Lightning II.

“Most people understand that the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth aircraft designed to perform missions undetected against our adversaries,” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Pelletier, 56th Maintenance Group wing weapons manager.  “The addition of external munitions increases the aircraft’s weapons carry capability.”

This is the first time Luke weapons Airmen installed external pylons, and loaded external bombs and missiles on an F-35.

“Weapons technicians will be better versed in the overall aircraft weapons system and pilots will leave this base and enter the combat Air Force more ready and capable of flying to the aircraft’s full potential,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Mares, 56th MXG weapons load crew member.  

The F-35A Lightning II sits in a hangar loaded with dummy external munitions, Feb. 13, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. After completing the external pylon installation training, the weapons loading standardization crew, a team of three Airmen, became the first team at Luke to be certified on external GBU-12 bomb and AIM-9 missile loading.

After completing the external pylon installation training, the weapons loading standardization crew, a team of three Airmen, became the first team at Luke to be certified on external GBU-12 bomb and AIM-9 missile loading. 

“The training allowed us to identify future training opportunities and complete training with lessons learned and experienced by Air Combat Command units,” Mares said.  “This is paramount for our development going forward.”

In total, approximately 150 F-35 weapons loaders will receive training directly from those trained by team Hill.

Senior Airman Hunter Medlin, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron load crew member, maneuvers a jammer underneath a dummy missile, Feb. 13, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Medlin was part a three-man team receiving their certification on loading external munitions on an F-35A Lightning II.

“We will systematically develop our Airmen’s competence through deliberate training events and hone their confidence through standardization and repetition,” Pelletier said. “It is our intent to make this training a staple for all newly assigned Airmen.”

Whether it’s night flying, dog fighting or loading external munitions for increased capabilities, it all comes down to training like we fight and being prepared for any mission.

“Our objectives are designed to ensure we train the best maintainers and aircrew to stay ahead of any potential adversary,” Pelletier said “Whether an aircrew member or maintainer, everyone who departs Luke for another F-35 assignment will be better mentally and technically equipped to operate in an operational environment.”
 

Senior Airman Levi Aydt, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron load crew member, directs the jammer driver to position dummy munitions on an external pylon, Feb. 13, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The F-35A Lightning II can have external pylons installed for additional munitions while in combat.

 

Tech Sgt. RC Craig Carnate-Ramo and Senior Airman Levi Aydt, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron load crew members, discuss mounting techniques of external ammunitions on the F-35A Lightning II, Feb. 13, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. This is the first time Luke weapons Airmen installed external pylons, and loaded external bombs and missiles on an F-35.

 

The 56th Maintenance Group conducts certification training on the installation of pylons for external munitions on the F-35A Lightning II, Feb. 13, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The F-35 is designed to provide the pilot with unsurpassed situational awareness, positive target identification and precision strike in all weather conditions against ground targets, plus long range detection of air-to-air threats.




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