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388th Fighter Wing standing up final F-35A aircraft maintenance unit

Crew chiefs assigned to 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare to launch F-35A Lightning II fighter jets at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Crew chiefs assigned to 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare to launch F-35A Lightning II fighter jets at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Airman 1st Class Brennan Venable removes chocks from an F35A Lightning II prior to launch at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Airman 1st Class Brennan Venable removes chocks from an F35A Lightning II prior to launch at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Senior Airman Sergei Ireland, right, and Airman 1st Class James Painter, 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, perform maintenance on an F-35A Lightning II fighter jet at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Senior Airman Sergei Ireland, right, and Airman 1st Class James Painter, 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, perform maintenance on an F-35A Lightning II fighter jet at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, July 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- The 388th Fighter Wing recently began standing up the last of its aircraft maintenance units, a big step toward receiving the full complement of F-35A Lightning IIs by the end of 2019.

The first operational F-35s landed at Hill Air Force Base in October 2015. Since then, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and 4th AMU have stood up and generated more than 11,000 flying hours with the current fleet of 40 F-35As. The wing will eventually have 78 aircraft.


The 421st AMU, which will support the 421st Fighter Squadron, is preparing to receive its first aircraft in December. The unit is filling out the roster with new Airmen and training on four jets loaned from other 388th FW units.


“Our team has been learning about the multiple aircraft systems, inspection requirements, servicing, maintenance procedures and munitions loading,” said Capt. Kimberly Jackson, officer in charge of the 421st AMU.

The Airmen, some of whom are transitioning from fourth-generation airframes like the F-15 and F-16, have been concentrating on academics and theory, applying what they learn through hands-on aircraft work, and then refining those skills in proficiency training.

“Everyone is new and inexperienced to varying degrees, but there is a community of knowledge here in the 388th to draw from,” Jackson said.

While the 421st AMU is reaping the benefits of experience from the standup of the two AMUs that came before them, maintainers are still looking for ways to improve.

“We’ve evaluated and modified how we train, how we exercise, how we make maintenance decisions, how we organize, and how we communicate to maximize our team’s performance in our fifth-generation environment,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander.

The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the F-35A in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.