EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California --
While operating in the constrained COVID-19 environment, maintainers, pilots and engineers in the F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force completed the base’s first F-22 operational rapid crew swap recently at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
“The RCS initiative is a great example of motivated Airmen coming together to challenge the status quo and find a way to keep the mission going despite constraints,” said Lt. Col. Tyler Robarge, F-22 Combined Test Force Director, 411th Flight Test Squadron.
In a rapid crew swap, an aircraft is launched, completes its mission and upon returning to base the pilot is quickly changed. As the pilots are changing out maintenance personnel refuel and complete expedited checks before immediately launching the aircraft for another mission.
“It was great to see how quickly everyone came together with getting something down on paper, running it through a trial, and successfully executing it,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Daschofsky, 411th FLTS Aircraft Maintenance Unit Production Superintendent.
Incorporating rapid crew swaps can reduce the time it takes to generate a new sortie by up to two hours, greatly increasing the amount of time aircraft mechanics have to maintain unique, one-of-a-kind test assets as well as how many missions these aircraft can fly in a limited window.
“We have a warfighter need modernize for the near-peer fight”, said Lt Col Robarge, “and that means using every tool available to get maximum use out the test resources we have.”
Under normal conditions being able to generate additional flights within a smaller window would be impressive, however being able to field this capability in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic speaks to the spirit of innovation and agility of the F-22 CTF.
“We are always looking for ways to be more efficient with sortie generation as well as lowering the burden on maintenance. Rapid Crew Swaps do both and they provide us another option for many years to come,” Daschofsky said.
The 325th Fighter Wing was the first F-22 operating location to field rapid crew swaps after Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle in October 2018. While Tyndall AFB was recovering from the Category 5 hurricane, wartime requirements necessitated that the pilot training pipeline continue to operate.
“Tyndall really paved the way for the rest of the community in showing that this was a viable option to increase sortie production,” Robarge said.
Once the 325th FW proved the concept of the rapid crew swap it spread throughout Air Combat Command and the rest of the F-22 operational community. However each location was left to develop their own operating procedures and local checklists to execute this task.
“Even though the rapid crew swap procedure is utilized across much of the F-22 enterprise, a gap exists in that there is no Air Force wide best practice in executing it,” Daschofsky said.
The F-22 CTF is evolving this capability by partnering with AFMC to codify the rapid crew swap into maintenance Technical Orders, ensuring a standardized process across the F-22 fleet as a whole.