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New tech to ease F-35A flight line maintenance

388th Fighter Wing F-35A maintainers use new tablets to connect with jet.

Staff Sgt. Rio Torres, 388th Maintenance Squadron, and Airman 1st Class Jacob Dean, 419th Maintenance Squadron, both aircraft maintainers, use a tablet while performing inspections on an F-35A Lightning II fighter jet at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 4, 2018. The networked tablets will update work orders and other information in real time allowing maintainers to generate sorties quicker and more efficiently. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

388th Fighter Wing F-35A maintainers use new tablets to connect with jet.

Staff Sgt. Rio Torres, 388th Maintenance Squadron, and Airman 1st Class Jacob Dean, 419th Maintenance Squadron, both aircraft maintainers, use a new hand-held tablet connected to a keyboard while working in a back shop at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 4, 2018. The new tablets will replace the laptops currently used by Total Force Airmen maintaining F-35A's at Hill AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) -- Maintainers on Hill Air Force Base’s flight line are beginning to utilize new high-tech, hand-held tablets to work on the F-35A Lightning II, the United States’ most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft.

“I am passionate about my job and I want to do it well. These tablets are going to help me do that,” said Staff Sgt. Rio Torres, a low observable technician in the 388th Maintenance Squadron.

The handheld tablets will augment laptops, called Portable Maintenance Aids, currently used by Airmen to connect to the F-35A’s Autonomic Logistics Information System on the flight line. ALIS is the one-stop shop for the “health” of every aircraft – used for tracking everything from flight data to aircraft status and supply information.

The “beefed-up laptops” maintainers now use are not always the fastest or most efficient, said Torres. They are not WI-FI enabled, and don’t allow for real-time information sharing.

The units are also bulky and heavy and must be manually updated with tech data and other information. Any changes to a jet’s status also required maintainers to leave the flight line to log into ALIS. Now, maintainers and their tablets will be networked together to update work orders and other information immediately, moving from jet to jet much more quickly.

“If we have an issue with a jet and need to ground abort, a pilot will be able to sign out a spare right on the line and step to that jet. We can do that right on the flight line without having to call the flight ops desk for a backup,” said 1st Lt. Eric Dolan, 388th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment flight commander.

Eventually the 388th Maintenance Group will have nearly 200 of the handheld tablets which will help maintainers generate sorties quicker and more efficiently.

Hill AFB is slated to be home to three operational F-35A fighter squadrons with a total of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in September 2015. The active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th FW will fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.

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