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F-35A maintainers at Hill training for more combat flexibility

A photo of F-35 maintenance

Maintainers with the 421st Fightrer Generation Squadron perform maintenance on a F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, March 18, 2021. Training programs developed by the 388th Maintenance Group produce multi-capable maintainers skilled in core tasks to provide more combat flexibility with the F-35. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

A photo of F-35 maintenance

Maintainers with the 421st Fightrer Generation Squadron perform maintenance on a F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, March 18, 2021. Training programs developed by the 388th Maintenance Group produce multi-capable maintainers skilled in core tasks to provide more combat flexibility with the F-35. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

A photo of F-35 maintenance

Maintainers with the 421st Fighter Generation Squadron prepare to remove an engine from an F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Feb. 25, 2021. Training programs developed by the 388th Maintenance Group produce multi-capable maintainers skilled in core tasks to provide more combat flexibility with the F-35. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

A photo of F-35 maintenance

Maintainers with the 421st Fightrer Generation Squadron perform maintenance on a F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, March 18, 2021. Training programs developed by the 388th Maintenance Group produce multi-capable maintainers skilled in core tasks to provide more combat flexibility with the F-35. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – The 388th Maintenance Group is using two programs to train multi-capable Airmen, maintainers who will provide more combat flexibility with the F-35A Lightning II.

As the first active-duty, combat-coded F-35A unit in the Air Force with multiple European, Pacific and Middle East deployments under its belt, the 388th Fighter Wing is taking that experience and refining training processes to create more multi-capable Airmen who can support agile combat operations.

The ACE concept enables flying units to disperse, to forward deploy and operate from austere airfields, or land, re-arm and refuel in unpredictable locations.

“ACE requires us to look at ways to be lean and agile, and training our maintainers to be multi-capable increases our ability to support operations with a smaller footprint” said Col Jeremy Anderson, 388th Maintenance Group commander. 

The 388th Maintenance Group is building multi-capable Airmen in two ways. The Lightning Technician Program is focused on creating a small group of highly-skilled maintainers for each fighter generation squadron – able to deliver agile combat employment with small group of F-35s. Second they are expanding the foundational elements of LTP across all flight line maintainers with a new training process called “Core 54,” said Anderson.

The Core 54 program is a distillation of the concepts the 388th MXG developed with the Lightning Technician Program and refers to core ground-handling tasks, combining all the elements needed to launch and recover aircraft.

This includes tasks such as: inspections, refueling, servicing oil, hydraulics, marshaling and more. Where Core 54 differs from LTP is its primary focus on the ground handling aspects of maintenance, instead of an all-encompassing core competency of all areas of the F-35.

“Core 54 is like your bachelor’s degree and LTP is your follow-on master’s degree,” said Anderson.  “We can’t afford for everyone to get their master’s because of the high training burden, but we can gain maintenance capacity and build multi-capable Airmen through Core 54.”

Airmen in the crew chief, avionics and weapons career fields are the primary groups who will be trained in these core tasks. As the new training is implemented across the fighter generation squadrons, it will create a foundation of multi-capable Airmen and spark LTP growth.

“Core 54 compliments our efforts with LTP, providing us the flexibility in the field to generate sorties with a much smaller personnel package,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ben Carson, 388th Maintenance Group chief enlisted manager.

While any of the Core 54-trained Airmen are performing “common ground handling” tasks, each specialized field can better focus their efforts on those specific areas when the need arises.

“Let’s say we’ve got a six-ship out on a TDY and two jets need engine maintenance. Well, the crew chiefs can focus on the engine maintenance instead of launching, recovering and turning aircraft, while the weapons or avionics Airmen are performing those sortie production effort,” Carson said. “Core 54 improves our ability to efficiently fix aircraft and generate sorties.” 

“The combination of LTP and Core 54 is improving the technical skillset of our maintainers and will make us more capable, leaner and faster in peacetime operations as well as combat,” said Anderson.