This is how a U.S. Air Force 23-year-old Airman developed a cost-effective solution to fix a major weapon’s system issue with an F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet

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The in-flight weapons system maintenance issue affected the radar cross-section of the F-22

A re-occurring weapon’s system issue with an F-22 Raptor belonging to 43rd Fighter Squadron  from Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, has recently been fixed by a small team of Airmen who developed an innovative solution to solve the problem.

Even if, as explained by the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the exact details of the problem and solution could not be released to the public and can only be described in simplified terms due to the sensitivity of the specific maintenance issue affecting the F-22, the team’s problem solving is a testament to the Air Force Airmen professionalism.

“During roll call, our expediter (an experienced crew chief responsible for coordinating required maintenance taskings) gave out the tasks for the day. My task was to figure out why we were having this re-occurring problem with one of the jets,” explained Senior Airman Samuel Privett, a 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew member.

Privett spent a lot of time working with his team and interpreting the engineering diagrams to find out the problem the jet had.

“It took us about two days and several people overall to finally nail it down,” pointed out Privett, a 23-year-old native of Dallas.

Noteworthy this in-flight weapons system maintenance issue affected the radar cross-section of the F-22 and persisted over a period of a few months. The result was that this problem reduced the effectiveness of the F-22’s low observability, which meant enemy aircraft and radars – operational or simulated – would have a better chance of identifying the aircraft.

“We have a fabrication machine in the shop that allowed us to create what we needed. We were able to fix the problem ourselves without having to send the jet off to the depot for maintenance,” Privett said.

Replacing the entire affected system would have cost approximately $40,000 to $50,000, but an in-house team solution cost the Air Force only $250. Moreover, the team was able to save more than 200 hours in labor and lost flight time.

“Senior Airman Privett plays a key role in fostering teamwork and ensuring accurate communication from shift to shift,” said Master Sgt. David A. Riddle, the 43rd AMU weapons flight chief. “In conjunction with other members of the mighty 43rd Hornet Weapons Flight, we were able to isolate the malfunction that had been eluding us for quite some time.”

The repair allowed the Raptor to quickly return to the sky with student pilots, reducing the downtime of the aircraft.

The 43rd Fighter Squadron, which is a subordinate unit of the 325th Fighter Wing, is responsible for providing air dominance training for Air Force pilots in the F-22 Raptor.

Senior Airman Samuel Privett
Senior Airman Samuel Privett, a 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew member, stands at parade rest in front of an F-22 Raptor at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 4, 2016.
 Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz / U.S. Air Force