MCAS IWAKUNI, YAMAGUCHI, Japan -- The 354th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) became the first in the U.S. Pacific Air Forces to utilize an innovative F-35A Lightning II Alternate Mission Equipment Mobility (AME) Storage Rack during an agile combat employment training event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, earlier this month.
“AME is any equipment like pylons, launchers, or bomb racks that allow us to alter what the F-35A can carry according to mission needs,” said Master Sgt. Amanda Cannon, 354th AEW noncommissioned officer in charge of weapons loading. “If there’s a requirement for bombs, we need to equip the aircraft with bomb racks. If the mission requires missiles, we have to equip the aircraft with launcher adapters. Each MSR holds an entire aircraft worth of AME: four pylons and two launchers. We can configure a jet for any type of mission with just one MSR.”
The new, compact MSR supports the mobility and efficiency components of agile combat employment (ACE) by reducing pack-out time by two hours per aircraft in addition to reducing the AME cargo footprint by 40 percent; what previously occupied more than 20 pallet positions can now be securely transported using only 12. Taking into account how many pallet positions a C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft can accommodate, the MSR also saves millions of dollars on transit.
“During ACE operations, the MSR would show up to us when we land at a hub or a spoke location netted and lined to protect the assets,” explained Tech. Sgt. Kyle Davey, 354th AEW alternate mission equipment supervisor. “When it showed up, we would take it from storage to ready-to-go in just a few hours. Anything we would need to configure one aircraft for whatever the mission is, whether its air-to-air, air-to-ground, any capability fits on that one MSR.”
Davey said the previous method for packing, storing and transporting AME involved wooden crates, individual shipping units, foam padding and bubble wrap. Due to the tendency of items in ISUs to shift during transit, each piece of equipment would need to undergo a comprehensive inspection upon delivery to assess for damage that may have been incurred en route. The MSR holds each piece of equipment securely within its custom-built steel frame, and a quick visual inspection is all it takes to verify the equipment has arrived in good working condition and is ready for use.
“At home station we keep these packed up unless home station training missions need equipment off of them,” explained Davey. “That way when it is time to go, we do a quick inventory to verify everything is on there and then we’re out the door.”