In Depth

F-35 Maintenance Training: Innovation in Learning

August 17, 2017

A new library of realistic maintenance trainers is bringing legacy learning processes into the 21st Century, allowing F-35 maintainers to garner a holistic overview of their duties and gain hands-on experience doing critical tasks that aren’t readily available using live airplanes.

Pictured: Maintainers during training at Eglin AFB, Florida.

The Aircraft Systems Maintenance Trainer (ASMT), which has been used since 2011 to train all F-35 maintainers at the F-35 Academic Training Center at Eglin AFB, Florida, has already changed the way students learn to perform their core duties. With upgrades coming before the end of 2017, students will be able to train on more than 100 new modules, teaching them a variety of new maintenance tasks including how to service the engine.

“We’re taking the learning and expertise to new heights, creating subject matter experts who can go to their units already having experience with very realistic equipment that represent critically important real-world scenarios,” said Benito Avendano, F-35 Maintenance Training Devices Program Manager. “As an Air Force Reservist, I’ve seen firsthand how enabling learning on specific maintenance tasks ahead of need could make the maintenance mission more effective and efficient.”

The schoolhouse at Eglin is also teaching students how to load weapons on the jet with the Weapons Loading Trainer.

They also learn to service the critically important egress system with the Ejection System Maintenance Trainer.

Brand new technology is also making its way to Eglin’s F-35 Maintenance Training courses. Government validations for the Integrated Power Package Maintenance Trainer and the Landing Gear Maintenance Trainer (LGMT) are being completed this summer. Both of these devices expose sections of the F-35 in a way that allows maintainers to look, feel, and work on them in a practice setting. Both are scheduled for integration into training courses at Eglin by the end of 2017.

Pictured: An LGMT at a Lockheed Martin lab in Orlando, Florida.

“The military has never had this level of training technology for any airframe,” said Colleen Arthur, Vice President of F-35 Training at Lockheed Martin. “The innovation of these trainers provides maintainers a complete view of F-35 maintenance, down to specific airframe components with real world scenarios that students can run through.”

While the benefits of these trainers are not yet measured in dollars or man-hours, the impact is obvious. All F-35 users can benefit from the technology while their maintenance personnel are trained at Eglin, and there’s potential to expand the use of these devices at the unit level for U.S. Services, international partners and foreign military sales customers.

“We’ve learned over the years that damage in the field due to maintenance errors can be very costly while also impacting flying and overall readiness, so learning to execute maintenance tasks in a realistic environment reduces the likelihood of mistakes once these students move on to their first F-35 units,” Arthur said. “Lockheed Martin has the technology and the expertise, it makes sense for us to leverage these devices with quality instruction to create well-rounded maintainers to the F-35 enterprise.”

More than 4,300 maintainers have graduated through Eglin’s ATC since its inception, and classes continue on schedule at near maximum capacity.

Maintainers will train more completely, accurately and safely with the hands-on training devices at Eglin. As the OEM for the F-35, Lockheed Martin can ensure the trainers stay aligned with the airplane, which allows for new capabilities and training modules as the F-35 program matures.