JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The F-22 Raptor is known for its air dominance, but without maintenance, it wouldn’t fly.
Although the F-22 entered the Air Force in 2005, Airmen from the 15th and 154th Maintenance Squadrons continue to innovate how they keep the aircraft safe.
"We are always coming up with new and better ways to expedite our process," said Staff Sgt. Yonik Gomez, 154th MXS low observable maintainer. "We have been able to minimize the repair time by half, giving us more time to work on other repairs."
The F-22 is a critical war-fighting machine, capable of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, which helps the United States Air Force be the best in the world.
For maintainers, being open to new changes and allowing for innovative ways to eliminate corrosion, the team has come far in their efforts and repairs move more rapidly than they used to.
"We were able to become more efficient by making sure we had a lot of the hardware fabricated or ordered in advance because we knew a lot of the repairs would be similar," said Senior Airman Kanoa Kimura, 154th MXS low observable maintainer. "We also used research and trial and error with new tools to smooth out and speed up the process of our repairs."
Every 36 months, maintenance Airmen deep clean and inspect F-22 cockpits for corrosive elements that need to be replaced with new hardware.
"We ensure that both the aircraft and the pilot come back safe and sound," said Gomez.
The process involves cleaning, assessing damage, and measuring the thickness of materials needed.
“Originally, the process started on a Word document, but it has since become more streamlined involving an Excel spreadsheet that keeps tabs on all equipment replacements and repairs,” said Kimura.
The 15th and 154th MXS performed eight different corrosion repairs in the last year.
"We start by inspecting the cockpit and removing any hardware that we have identified as corrosive," said Senior Airman Devin Garcia, 15th MXS low observable journeyman. "We either receive or fabricate the hardware removed, apply a coating to the pieces of hardware to prevent the corrosion from returning, then reinstall and apply more preventative coatings around the whole area."
“The maintainers also work alongside their F-22 field service representative to look closer at the areas of damage,” said Gomez. “The next step requires the maintainer to submit an action request to determine the repairs. From there, they’re instructed to begin repairs and either receive or fabricate parts.”
The Airmen innovated the process of installing new hardware into the cockpits and expedited the process by reducing hours of work and trying new methods. Through perseverance, the F-22s are serviced more quickly without sacrificing safety.