The Mechanics of It All

To fill the ranks of F-35 maintainers, the Air Force will draw 1,100 airmen from the A-10, F-16, and C-130 fleets, the service said in a news release Friday. The positions will be back-filled by contractor personnel. Lt. Gen. John Cooper, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering, and force structure, told the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee on Friday that the service is 4,000 maintenance airmen short across the service, and the deficit continues to grow because the service is bringing in two F-35s each month, each of which requires 20 maintainers. “We have the force structure that we’re not able to divest, and we’re growing F-35s,” he said, referencing legacy aircraft that has been maintained for the fight against ISIS. Besides asking for more maintenance billets in the Fiscal 2017 budget, USAF said it will use re-enlistment bonuses to retain maintainers; invite separated personnel to return to Active Duty, and other measures, including “allowing high year of tenure extensions.” Aside from the formal training units for the three aircraft types, bases that will be affected include the A-10 Weapons Instructor Course and operational test and evaluation units at Nellis AFB, Nev.; F-16 Aggressor maintenance at Eielson AFB, Alaska, and aerospace ground units at Andersen AFB, Guam; Holloman and Kirtland Air Force Bases in New Mexico; Peterson AFB, Colo.; Rota AB, Spain, and avionics units at Eglin Air Force Base and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.