Amphibious assault ship USS America’s (LHA-6) deck crew is gearing up for F-35B Joint Strike Fighter testing this fall, with ship modifications for the new plane complete but crew training still ongoing.
The Navy and Marine Corps will test the new short-takeoff vertical-landing plane on the newest big-deck amphib in October. The ship came out of a maintenance availability in March with physical modifications to support the bigger and more powerful jet, but America’s assistant air department head told USNI News aboard the ship last month that the crew would be busy preparing for F-35 in the intervening months.
The department plans to send 30 to 40 crew members to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina for F-35B handling and firefighting training, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Miller said. While the deck crew of the amphibious assault ships already handles both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, the JSF presents some unique challenges.
Noting that the F-35 stores its weapons internally to stay stealthy, the mini boss said that “normally the first thing we do if there’s a fire on deck is we put cooling water on the ordnance. Now if the ordnance is inside the aircraft, how are we supposed to cool the ordnance? (Emphasis added—Ed.) This is a technical problem that we haven’t totally gotten the answer for yet, we’re hoping they’re going to come up with something.
“But in the meantime we’ll go there, we’ll get training on the uniqueness of the airframe, how to properly tie it down – being that it’s more composite than ever, the techniques you use on how to chain it down, how tight they are and everything else become more and more important so that we don’t mess up a $100-million jet.”
Some America leadership will go to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for tower training, Miller said, and immediately before F-35B comes aboard the ship the whole air department will go to NAS North Island, Calif., for hands-on training with the new aircraft. (end of excerpt)
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