MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Clear blue skies aren't guaranteed when a mission is tasked, so the aircraft maintenance units and fighter squadrons at Misawa Air Base, Japan, frequently conduct night operations to increase abilities to operate in any conditions.
“A vital part of our mission at Misawa is the ability to execute 24-hour operations,” said Capt. Kayla Pipe, the 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) officer in charge. “When we deploy, we continuously have jets in the air and fly around-the-clock sorties. Being familiar with flying at night prepares maintenance to execute the Wild Weasel mission 24/7.”
Pilots need their maintenance teams to be top notch while turning wrenches in the dark; during night operations, maintainers take extra precautions and extra time to launch jets safely.
“Performing maintenance during nighttime operations differs from your typical work day but not in a major way,” said Senior Airman Gage Putman, a 14th AMU dedicated crew chief. “It becomes even more critical that the work we do out here is done well, and inspections are given a little extra effort.”
Pipe added maintainers must learn to operate when there is no natural light, meaning they must rely on flash lights, light carts and hardened aircraft shelter lighting, making it harder to see threats and potential hazards.
“Inspections at night take more time due to the weather and lighting,” Putman said. “We verify we have the right equipment to keep our work areas lit, double check all of our aircraft lights and we spend a little extra time removing some of the ice.”
Although maintenance has set shifts like days, mid shift and night shift, during these night operations, they have day shift change to nights, ensuring every maintainer gains the necessary experience.
“We perform night operations to keep our pilots' night flying qualifications up-to-date and to keep our maintainers sharp on how to launch, recover and fix aircraft during hours of darkness,” continued Pipe.
These routine night operations continually allow all Airmen to stay mission-ready and capable of handling any operations, day or night.
“Maintainers are very familiar with working at night, but flying at night is a less practiced skill that is vital to the mission,” said Pipe. “Thus, we practice night flying so both maintenance and operations are 100 percent qualified and ready to go when called upon.”