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Avionics specialists ensure F-22 remains unmatched

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony Jennings
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Specialists deployed here in support of the U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Packages, ensure the F-22 Raptor maintains air dominance over the Pacific.

The F-22 Raptor, which became operational in 2005, is the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft and will eventually to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-15s. Its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics represents an exponential leap in war-fighting capabilities.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Mayo, an F-22 avionics specialist assigned to the 27th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit from Langley Air Force Base, Virg., said understanding the jet's mechanics and technology takes some adjustment. She worked on F-16 Fighting Falcons for three years and said the strides in aviation technology are impressive.

"This jet is very integrated and has a lot of parts, especially when compared to the F-16 which was much easier to understand," Sergeant Mayo said. "I felt very knowledgeable on the Falcon but when I began working on the F-22, I felt like I was starting all over again. But I really enjoy the challenges because they make the job fun and enjoyable."

With so much cutting-edge technology in the F-22, Specialists, who are responsible for maintaining the aircraft's sophisticated avionics, have a distinctive relationship with the aircraft.

"It's a very diverse and unique relationship specialists have with the F-22 because, unlike the legacy aircraft where it's the crew chiefs running the show, more than 90 percent of the maintenance that occurs on the Raptor is on its avionics," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Fenn, F-22 avionics craftsman with the 27th EAMU.

Because the F-22 Raptor is still a relatively new fighter, as with any advancement in technology, minor issues with software must be addressed and specialists are a key component to ensuring the F-22 remains unbeatable.

"One of the hot items in the Raptor nation is the data health management deficiency report," Sergeant Fenn said. "Basically, anytime there is a fault or malfunction with the Raptor that we don't have the technical order or direction to fix, we submit a DHMDR to Lockheed-Martin so they have situational awareness on what problems we're running into."

One of the major challenges specialists must overcome are glitches in the software.

"The biggest part of the DHMDR process is identifying any glitches in the software," Sergeant Fenn said. "Software glitches are really hard to fix from a maintenance standpoint because it isn't just a mechanical part we can replace, we have to work continuously with engineering support from Lockhead-Martin."

Despite the complexity of its software, the F-22 remains the most lethal of any fighter aircraft in history, as demonstrated by the 27th's 28:1 kill ratio during Andersn's Air Force Base's recent exercise Valiant Shield 2010.

Whether it's day-to-day avionics maintenance on the world's most advanced and lethal fighter aircraft or providing engineers with the information they need to continuously refine its technology, specialists are vital to ensuring the F-22 Raptor remains unmatched in the skies.

"I think it's really awesome that we're standing on the cutting edge of advanced fighter aircraft technology," Sergeant Fenn said. "We're really the tip of the spear; it's something new and exciting in the avionics world. I truly feel that our presence is needed, and we're contributing in some way to the global effort."