Wireless capable ruggedized laptops enhance maintenance capabilities

Having readily available resources within arm’s reach could be the difference between mission success and mission failure. Through innovative thinking and implementing advanced technology, a workforce can find ways to save time, money, and manpower. The 56th Fighter Wing Program Integration Office seeks to meet this goal by providing Luke Air Force Base maintainers a new laptop they hope increases productivity, efficiency, and overall capabilities.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Robosky, 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-35A Lightning II assistant dedicated crew chief, uses a wireless capable ruggedized laptop during an F-35 inspection Feb. 3, 2022, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The laptops are used daily to check servicing levels, accomplish aircraft inspections and sign off on forms, which increases maintainers’ ability to support the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready Airmen.

“In July 2019, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Integration Office issued a wireless policy update, pressing the need to generate sorties at relevant speed,” said Master Sgt. Felipe Pent, 56th Fighter Wing Program Integration Office superintendent. “The 56th PIO answered that call to action in October 2020 by purchasing 400 Rugged Extreme Business Laptops with wireless capabilities.”

According to the PIO, the new laptops decreased the time between task completion and a maintainer’s ability to update the Autonomic Logistics Information System, a maintenance tracking system, in real time.

“Lt. Col. Jason Bartels, 56th PIO chief, wanted to give maintainers the ability to access and update maintenance actions at the exact point of use,” said Pent. “The ability to wirelessly communicate with operations and maintenance systems, particularly [next to] the aircraft while on the ramp or in a hangar, will significantly improve our ability to keep the F-35 combat-ready.”

Pent explained that the distribution of these ruggedized laptops was not only a significant upgrade from the older units, but how the laptops seamlessly align with the base’s ongoing flightline Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Wi-Fi modernization project, which allows for reliable Wi-Fi connectivity on the flightline.
“Combined with the NIPR Wi-Fi expansion project, the ruggedized laptop’s portability gives Luke Air Force Base maintainers access to critical information [in real time],” said Pent. “Now systems, such as the Autonomic Logistics Information System, are being updated at the point of use. This reduces turn times and increases aircraft ability rates as well as connectivity for flightline maintainers.”

U.S. Air Force leadership visited Luke maintainers, communications squadron members, and representatives from the 56th PIO to observe the implementation and demonstration of these new laptops.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Robosky, 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-35A Lightning II assistant dedicated crew chief, utilizes a wireless capable ruggedized laptop during an F-35 tire inspection Feb. 3, 2022, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. With the laptops, Airmen are able to close the time gap of task completion due to users having instant network access during daily maintenance operations.

“This was an incredible visit. The leadership team within the 56th Maintenance Group is working tirelessly to ensure their maintainers not only have persistent connectivity across the flightline, but recently secured an updated ruggedized Dell Latitude 7424 laptop,” said Lt. Col. Yogi Lebby, U.S. Air Force Logistics Directorate Maintenance Division chief of advance concepts. “This new laptop is a huge update to the previous version and provides maintainers not only an opportunity to wirelessly connect on the flightline, but introduces a sleeker, newly designed laptop over its predecessor. While touring the flightline, maintainer after maintainer [who were] using the new laptops raved on their capability and are excited for other innovation technologies coming to the 56th.”

Prior to the wireless capable laptops being implemented, flightline personnel had to leave their immediate work area to update maintenance tracking systems.

“With the new laptops I am able to save time by completing my forms as I go,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Viers, 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. “This saves four man-hours per week [per person]. Additionally, we are able to use our maintenance systems on the flightline to communicate with production superintendents that the jet is ready for the next flight. These new laptops not only accelerate change, but showcase innovation for the future.”

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Robosky, 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-35A Lightning II assistant dedicated crew chief, performs an F-35 inspection with the help of a wireless capable ruggedized laptop Feb. 3, 2022, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The ability to communicate wirelessly with maintenance operation systems while on the ramp has improved Airmen’s ability to streamline daily operations while supporting combat-ready Airmen.

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