Even the most technologically sophisticated fast jets in the world would be useless without a skilled team of maintainers to keep them airborne.
For this reason, Air Force maintainers have been training on the F-35A in the United States since February 2017. This will ensure that Australia’s first two F-35A aircraft will be fully supported when they arrive at RAAF Base Williamtown in December this year.
After completing their academic training at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida in the middle of last year, the first cadre of 20 maintainers began on-the-job training at Luke AFB in Arizona, where they are working alongside United States Air Force personnel at the 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
One of Air Force’s senior aircraft technicians, Sergeant Simon Avis, recently arrived at Luke for a three-month period of training to prepare him for his future role as an instructor at the Australian Integrated Training Centre (ITC), which will be part of No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) at Williamtown.
Sergeant Avis, who has served for 20 years, said he was excited about seeing the aircraft in action during everyday operations at Luke.
“I’m looking forward to getting a practical understanding of how the operational processes work,” Sergeant Avis said.
“In the lead-up to the arrival of the first two Australian F-35A aircraft at Williamtown, I will be one of the RAAF’s representatives during the installation of the ICT equipment and devices at 2OCU, as well as instructing new personnel entering the Australian F-35A Project.”
Sergeant Avis is no stranger to instructing. During his 20-year career he has worked on a variety of aircraft, and was an instructor and training developer on the C-130J Hercules while posted to No. 285 Squadron from 2010 to 2014.
“Being an instructor will allow me to influence new personnel into the F-35A way of thinking and operating,” he said.
“It is so different to anything the RAAF has previously operated, so setting the scene early is important to the success of this new capability.”
According to Sergeant Avis, life as an aircraft maintainer is an excellent career.
“Every day presents a new set of problems and solutions, so it is never boring – especially on the F-35A,” he said.
“Integrating cutting-edge technology into a total air system is a massive challenge and it’s great to be part of that.”
F-35A Project Snap Shot
• Two RAAF F-35A aircraft have been operating at the international F-35A Pilot Training Centre at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona since 2014.
• Australia has more than 30 full-time personnel supporting the global F-35 Program in the United States.
• Australia’s first two F-35A aircraft to be permanently based at RAAF Base Williamtown are scheduled to arrive in December 2018.
• There will be about 30-33 F-35A aircraft in the Australian F-35A fleet by Initial Operating Capability in December 2020.