LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — It’s a phrase often heard around the Air Force, “We train like we fight”, and this time, it came from the weapons community in what’s commonly referred to as the “Weapons Load Barn”.
A team of four Air Reserve Technicians from the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, brought a fighting mentality and increased lethality to Luke. Thirty-nine personnel from the 56th Aircraft and Component Maintenance Squadrons received three days of training on installing external aircraft maintenance equipment on the F-35A Lightning II.
“Most people understand that the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth aircraft designed to perform missions undetected against our adversaries,” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Pelletier, 56th Maintenance Group wing weapons manager. “The addition of external munitions increases the aircraft’s weapons carry capability.”
This is the first time Luke weapons Airmen installed external pylons, and loaded external bombs and missiles on an F-35.
“Weapons technicians will be better versed in the overall aircraft weapons system and pilots will leave this base and enter the combat Air Force more ready and capable of flying to the aircraft’s full potential,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Mares, 56th MXG weapons load crew member.
After completing the external pylon installation training, the weapons loading standardization crew, a team of three Airmen, became the first team at Luke to be certified on external GBU-12 bomb and AIM-9 missile loading.
“The training allowed us to identify future training opportunities and complete training with lessons learned and experienced by Air Combat Command units,” Mares said. “This is paramount for our development going forward.”
In total, approximately 150 F-35 weapons loaders will receive training directly from those trained by team Hill.
“We will systematically develop our Airmen’s competence through deliberate training events and hone their confidence through standardization and repetition,” Pelletier said. “It is our intent to make this training a staple for all newly assigned Airmen.”
Whether it’s night flying, dog fighting or loading external munitions for increased capabilities, it all comes down to training like we fight and being prepared for any mission.
“Our objectives are designed to ensure we train the best maintainers and aircrew to stay ahead of any potential adversary,” Pelletier said. “Whether an aircrew member or maintainer, everyone who departs Luke for another F-35 assignment will be better mentally and technically equipped to operate in an operational environment.”