The introduction of Australia-based training for RAAF aircrews is a major milestone in Australia's F-35 program, as up until now all Australian maintenance personnel completed all F-35A training at Luke Air Force Base in the US.
Australian maintainers now have access to world-class facilities both at Williamtown and in the US. An Ejection Systems Maintenance Trainer (ESMT) and Weapons Load Trainer (WLT), part of the delivery of training equipment by an Antonov An-124 on 2 May, were connected to the facilities in the ITC at No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) ahead of the maintenance courses beginning on the ESMT in September.
Then defence minister Marise Payne said at the time, "Today’s delivery includes an Ejection Systems Maintenance Trainer, which is a replica of the F-35A aircraft escape systems and a Weapons Load Trainer, which replicates the F-35A fuselage, including the weapons bay and wing hard points.
"The equipment delivered today will provide Australia with its own F-35 pilot and maintainer training capability and will form part of the overall Australian F-35A training system."
As part of preparing for the operational roll out of the F-35, RAAF maintainers will be trained across a number of training platforms.
Ejection Systems Maintenance Trainer: The ESMT is representative of the F-35 aircraft’s cockpit area, canopy and ejection seat and will enable aircrew to train without having to remove aircraft from flight schedules.
It includes a flexible linear-shaped charge training aid used to instruct technicians on safe canopy maintenance, such as removal and replacement. It also has two ejection seats, one fitted to the ESMT and one stand-alone to be used for ejection seat familiarisation training.
The ESMT comes with a crane that is used to remove the ejection seat and includes two viewing platforms and hydraulic platforms used for other maintenance. The ESMT will train personnel on the following:
- Safe aircraft ingress/egress;
- Cockpit and ejection seat controls;
- Emergency canopy release;
- Ejection seat maintenance – removal and replacement;
- Flexible linear-shaped charge maintenance; and
- Ejection seat familiarisation.
Weapons Load Trainer: The WLT is representative of all three JSF models from the rear of the canopy to the rear of the aircraft fuselage.
The WLT has a full set of landing gear, as well as fully operational internal weapons bays and operational hard-points beneath both wings for weapons installation. It includes a common 'A' and 'C' model weapons bay on one side and a smaller 'B' model on the other side, as well as an 'A' and 'B' model wing on one side and a larger 'C' model wing on the other side.
This commonality provides Australian maintainers with the necessary training to support allied variants of the F-35 as they are deployed throughout the region, the WLT will train personnel on the following:
- Internal and external weapons management;
- Weapons loading and unloading;
- Alternate mission equipment installation and removal; and
- Internal gun loading, unloading and maintenance.
Additionally, all maintainers have also completed training on the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), the state-of-the-art integrated logistics system designed to support the fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
ALIS is a system-of-systems approach to fleet management that connects F-35 maintenance, supply chain and sustainment information into a single management tool to support all F-35 operations. ALIS turns data into actionable information for pilots, maintainers and military leaders, enabling them to make proactive decisions to increase aircraft availability and reduce operations and maintenance costs.
The beginning of this sustainment and maintenance training at Williamtown ITC caps off a year of milestones for the development of the F-35's support infrastructure and industry around the base, following the delivering fully deployable JSF air vehicle support equipment in May and July, which saw the delivery of air-conditioning, hydraulic and power carts, engine trailers, adapters, alignment tools and test equipment, with later deliveries including specialised tool-kits and propulsion support equipment.