TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS), By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz – A small team of Airmen collectively worked together recently to develop a solution to the re-occurring F-22 weapon’s system issue.
The team’s problem solving is a testament to the amount of responsibility and confidence the Air Force puts in its Airmen regardless of age or experience.
“During roll call, our expediter (an experienced crew chief responsible for coordinating required maintenance taskings) gave out the tasks for the day. My task was to figure out why we were having this re-occurring problem with one of the jets,” said Senior Airman Samuel Privett, a 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew member.
Privett spent a lot of time working with his team and interpreting the engineering diagrams to trace the problem the jet had.
“It took us about two days and several people overall to finally nail it down,” said Privett, a 23-year-old native of Dallas.
This in-flight weapons system maintenance issue affected the radar cross section of the F-22 and persisted over a period of a few months. This reduced the effectiveness of the F-22’s low observability, which meant enemy aircraft and radars — operational or simulated — would have a better chance of identifying the aircraft.
“We have a fabrication machine in the shop that allowed us to create what we needed. We were able to fix the problem ourselves without having to send the jet off to the depot for maintenance,” Privett said.
Replacing the entire affected system would have cost approximately $40,000 to $50,000, but an in-house team solution cost the Air Force only $250. The team also saved more than 200 hours in labor and lost flight time.
“Senior Airman Privett plays a key role in fostering teamwork and ensuring accurate communication from shift to shift,” said Master Sgt. David A. Riddle, the 43rd AMU weapons flight chief. “In conjunction with other members of the mighty 43rd Hornet Weapons Flight, we were able to isolate the malfunction that had been eluding us for quite some time.”
The repair reduced the downtime of the aircraft, allowing a quick return to the sky with student pilots. The hard work of the 43rd AMU enabled Tyndall AFB to meet its main mission objective, to train and project unrivaled combat airpower.
“The teamwork displayed throughout the process was excellent, and Senior Airman Privett was one of the key leaders of that 10-plus member team,” Riddle said.
The Air Force relies on the diversity of its force to find innovative solutions to mission-essential problems. This is not limited to race, gender, and religion, but also in the age and maturity of an individual.
“Diversity within teams helps us to view problems from a multitude of perspectives, experience levels and individual technical knowledge capabilities,” said Col. Jacqueline M. Mongeon, the 325th Maintenance Group commander. “We have the unique ability to leverage the knowledge of both more experienced maintainers with the fresh perspective and innovation the younger generation brings to the fight. New ideas tempered by a steady hand sets us apart as an organization and contributes to the overall mission.”
(Editor’s note: Due to the sensitivity of the specific maintenance issue affecting the F-22 Raptor, the exact details of the problem and solution could not be released to the public and are described in simplified terms.)