49th AMXS, F-22 Raptors stand ready
By Commentary by Capt. Donald Hudson, Capt. Ryan Schmoll and 2nd Lt. Jason Hall, 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
/ Published August 11, 2012
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The F-22 Raptor cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft; however, there hasn't been and probably will never be an aircraft designed that doesn't require care and feeding to fly and project its capabilities.
Holloman AFB is one of a few bases selected to maintain the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft.
The 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the 'Fightin' 49ers' at Holloman AFB, are responsible for maintaining a fleet of more than 20 Raptors worth an estimated $3.7 billion with a compliment of approximately 300 active and reserve maintainers.
As with any new program, it requires years of real-world operational testing to push the limits and ensure that the field can maintain it efficiently and effectively, per its designed operational capability.
The 49th AMXS is, and continues to be, at the forefront of testing the supportability, reliability and maintainability of the F-22. The 49th AMXS "Unit of Firsts" has exceeded expectations in maintaining the Raptor in many instances.
In May 2011, Gen. William Fraser, the commander of Air Combat Command at the time, ordered the stand-down of all F-22 flying units, due to an unidentified problem that was causing hypoxia in pilots.
Despite what most would think, even if an aircraft is not flying, there are still countless hours of troubleshooting and maintenance to perform to keep the aircraft in a serviceable condition.
As a part of the strategic pause, the 49th AMXS developed a taxi plan to have all aircraft started and taxied to preserve the engines and various other components. The 49th AMXS plan was adopted by ACC as the standard for all F-22 units.
Between May 2011 and September 2011, when the return-to-fly (RTF) order was given, the 49th AMXS had accomplished more than three thousand maintenance actions and completed more than 900 Time Compliance Technical Orders (TCTOs). A TCTO is the equivalent of taking your car in for a recalled item and having it modified with a new system or part.
Not only did ACC adopt the 49th AMXS' stand-down taxi and training schedule, they called on the squadron to lead the charge for the RTF. Due to the 49th AMXS' careful planning and management during the strategic pause, they put the first Raptors in the air and have been ensuring the security of our nation ever since.
As if the RTF wasn't challenging enough, ACC Logistics Compliance Assessment Team (LCAT) inspectors visited Holloman AFB to inspect the entire 49th Maintenance Group for sound maintenance practices and compliance in December 2011.
The purpose of the Logistics Compliance Assessment Program (LCAP), according to Air Force Instruction 20-111, "is to provide leadership at all levels with an evaluation of a unit's ability to perform key logistics processes in a safe, standardized, repeatable and technically compliant manner."
Yet again, the 49th AMXS stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. The unit led the CAF with the highest-rated LCAP rating in 2011 with an outstanding 88.97 percent or "Excellent" rating. The LCAP hailed the 49th AMXS' performance and gladly admitted that they had not seen generation rates this good anywhere in the CAF.
Next, the 49th AMXS would be called on to test its ability to produce Raptor sorties and employ live air-to-air munitions.
Members of the 49th AMXS deployed to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida for two weeks earlier in May, in support of COMACC Plan 85, 12-08 Combat Archer. The purpose of the TDY was to exercise the weapons-employment process, starting from the initial build through the weapon leaving the aircraft.
The trip also provided valuable experience to all personnel involved in the process and provided weapons employment data to the Weapons System Evaluation Program.
Of note, the 49th AMXS was the first F-22 unit to obtain a 100 percent weapons-release rate with an incredible 92.3 percent Mission Capable (MC) rate and meeting 71 of 72 required sorties.
If that isn't impressive enough, the squadron also performed this task while the other half of the unit was deployed for national security objectives.
In addition, the 49th AMXS is the first unit ever to simultaneously deploy a Global Response Force (GRF) while deploying to perform a WSEP.
Ultimately, the 49th AMXS has led and will continue to lead the charge in the F-22 community with many firsts.
Remember, George Orwell, a British novelist and journalist, once wrote, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men [49th AMXS Airmen] stand ready to do violence on their behalf."