ATLANTIC OCEAN --
Three Airmen and two Sailors from the 33rd Maintenance Squadron are at sea with the Grim Reapers from the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 aboard the Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) through March 22, 2018.
The 33 MXS is assisting VFA-101 with maintenance to aid their F-35C Lightning II pilots in completing carrier qualification training requirements.
“Carrier qualifications are absolutely essential,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Senior Chief Goodenough, a sailor assigned to VFA-101. “We are an at-sea Navy, and if the pilot isn’t qualified, then he doesn’t go to sea and he can’t bring the fight to the enemy, which means the enemy comes to us.”
After numerous landings, and touch-and-goes during day and night flying, six Grim Reaper pilots will return to Eglin Air Force Base qualified for carrier operations and operational testing 1 (OT-1) later this year.
“We’re here to assist VFA-101 and the ship with the ability to service wheel assets, and equipment maintainers to service the Navy F-35 support equipment,” said 1st Lt. Sean Duval, 33 MXS maintenance operations officer.
This embark is providing a unique opportunity to see and experience a part of the military they normally would not see.
“It gives our guys a bigger picture of how we all fit into the military force, specifically for the two airmen that are here. The fact that we are showing them the real aspect of the joint strike fighter is huge,” said Duval. “Just because we’re joint doesn’t mean we do things the same way.”
While underway, the interaction between the Navy and Air Force allows the maintainers to determine how to make the Joint Strike Fighter program stronger, send feedback to leadership, and continue working to get the F-35C ready to deploy from an aircraft carrier, said Goodenough.
One of the major milestones of this underway is the operational use of the F-35C’s foldable-wing feature. This feature is a critical part of the integration of the F-35Cs with F/A-18C Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. This feature makes movement of different platforms on the flight deck possible.
“The fact that the Navy is asking for Airmen and Sailors assigned to an Air Force squadron to help train and perform the F-35 maintenance on board speaks highly of the Air Force as a service and the 33 MXS as a unit,” said Duval. “This is a great opportunity for these guys to work alongside the Navy to show them how we do business.”