Members of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron and 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, both from Beale AFB, Calif., completed a combat rotation of an undisclosed number of U-2 reconnaissance aircraft Oct. 17. U-2s that had been operating from Southwest Asia landed at RAF Fairford, Britain, en route back to Beale. They were exchanged there with U-2s arriving from Beale that were headed to the combat theater. These swap-outs are conducted about twice a year; they allow maintainers back at Beale to perform more in-depth maintenance checks and repairs on the returning U-2s than can be completed at the forward operating location. Phase inspections are performed on each U-2 aircraft about every 200 hours of flying when in theater, said TSgt. Dustin Storms, 9th AMXS dedicated crew chief. “This is considered minor maintenance and includes things like lubing the airplane and operations checks,” he said. This process takes about 46 hours to complete. But at every 600 hours of flying time, more complex inspections are conducted on the aircraft, and they must be done at Beale. They take about 12 to 14 days to complete. “The panels come off, the engine comes out, and components are changed,” explained Storms. It is during this time that maintainers also perform system upgrades. The U-2s returning to Beale are approaching the 600-hour mark. (Beale report by SSgt. Sarah Gregory)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.