PACIFIC OCEAN --- Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick, program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, visited the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Feb. 1.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office is the Department of Defense’s agency responsible for developing, delivering and sustaining the F-35A/B/C, the next-generation strike aircraft weapon system for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
“The purpose of my visit is to familiarize myself with what it means to operate out at sea,” said Fick. “I’ve never been on an aircraft carrier before. Getting to know, to see and understand how the flow works on the flight deck, the maintenance bays and hangar decks is very important as I try to conceptualize what it means to bring an F-35 into this environment.”
The knowledge gained from this visit will help in integrating the F-35C to the fleet. Although the introduction of the F-35’s to the fleet is not new, understanding the complexity of operating the aircraft in an afloat environment is new to Fick.
“Thinking about how we integrate the Charlie model into this complex environment, in a common hangar bay with other aircraft, how all the supplies fit, how all the support equipment fits; those are the things I’m going to take back and think about how we can work hard to support the Navy and the Marine Corps, who are going to fly C-models off the big deck carriers,” said Fick.
While aboard, Fick toured the ship and spoke to Sailors from different departments throughout the ship and was highly impressed with the crew’s ability to conduct flight operations.
“As I looked at everything going around the flight deck, aircraft taking off while simultaneously landing, people everywhere with different colored clothing on, it looked like chaos,” said Fick. “But as I stood there and observed more and more, what I saw was not chaos, but a very careful, choreographed, orchestrated dance where everyone was doing exactly what they needed to at exactly the right time. They moved with a purpose from point to point, but no one was panicking, no one was running, no one was freaking out.”
In addition to his fascination of the flight deck, Fick was also enthralled by the rest of the ship and her crew.
“As I interacted with the Sailors on the deck, in the hangars and in all the offices; I noticed they were confident, they knew exactly what they were doing, they were very prepared and enthusiastic about their jobs,” said Fick. “Most importantly they were very proud of the work they were doing.”
With the knowledge gained from his visit, Fick has a new found appreciation of the ships daily operations.
“It was a short, but remarkable time for me,” said Fick. “In this short, compressed window there was a whole lot of learning, a new recognition of the complexity of operating in this environment and a new recognition of the pride that the Sailors bring to work every day.”
Nimitz is currently underway conducting routine operations.