Four F-35A Lightning II combat aircraft return to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., after a sortie. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Edward Schmitt)
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., 11 Feb. 2013. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., achieved the wing’s first four-turn-four with the 58th Fighter Squadron and 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
"The pilots flew four F-35As in the morning and the maintainers performed routine maintenance for airworthiness after landing. Then the crew chiefs 'turned' them around so the four jets could be flown in the afternoon," explains Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the 33d Fighter Wing and one of the aviators in the formation.
The 31 Jan. 2013 event marked the first F-35 four-turn-four at the wing, and the team followed up the achievement on 1 Feb. with a four-turn-two. During the 31 Jan. training flights, the pilots used the F-35’s advanced radar systems to track F-16 "adversaries" over the Gulf of Mexico.
Maintenance personnel had spare F-35As ready to go in the event of any issues in flight, demonstrating their ability to prepare the Air Force's newest fighter jet for basic pilot training.
"The jets took off without any issues, the pilots flew their scheduled times. They all landed safely and the aircraft downloaded correctly," recalls Senior Master Sgt. Eric Wheeler, production superintendent with 58th AMU.
Unique to the JSF, data is downloaded and input into the autonomic logistics information system that tracks the health of the jet in a computer-based diagnostics and logistics system.
Turning jets and flying multiple aircraft in formation is standard operations at an established flying training unit; it marked another step toward self-sufficiency for the 33d Fighter Wing.
Contracted logistic support by Lockheed Martin is steadily giving way to 58th AMU crew chiefs as the Airmen become more proficient in maintaining the F-35A. Lockheed Martin staff will continue to support other variants and international partners.