AMU ‘Strikes’ Nellis with mission-ready aircraft

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The blazing rays of the hot summer sun beat down on them as they work. The heat is reflected off the pavement. Greasy hands grip onto tools, which could become scalding if left sitting in the sun for even a short period of time.

Despite temperatures moving the mercury well into triple digits, the maintainers from the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Strike Aircraft Maintenance Unit work around the clock to make sure the base's F-15E Strike Eagle fleet is ready to support the specific missions flown by their operational counterparts.

"Here at Strike we serve two missions; one is to support the 17th Weapons Squadron at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and the other is to support the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron's operational testing," said Capt. Christopher Bright, 757th AMXS Strike AMU officer in charge. "Each has their own aircraft and we help generate a schedule for them each week, so they can execute their own missions.

"Our goal for the 17th WPS is to generate sorties per their syllabus so their three student aircrews can graduate the class, and we support the F-15E Strike Eagle division of the 422nd TES by generating sorties and keeping their aircraft current and updated with the newest weapons systems, facilitating operational testing."

All software and hardware upgrades need to be tested before they can be fielded to Combat Air Force units.

"When upgrades are ready for on-aircraft, operational testing they come here for uploading," said Bright. "We'll load the hardware or software onto the aircraft so that they can fly and test it to collect data, so that eventually the Air Force can field it out to the units."

Chief Master Sgt. Clifford Gray, 757th AMXS Strike AMU superintendent, highlighted the importance of working the bugs out of the systems so the aircraft can perform as advertised.

"A lot of this stuff comes off the drawing board and it'll look good and make sense," said Gray. "But when you put it on the jet and go out and fly, it doesn't work. So you have to work the bugs out of it to ensure that it'll work properly. In theory, these things should work fine, but you have to test it to make sure."

As part of daily operations, Strike AMU flies four-turn-fours to support both missions.

"The 17th WPS and the 422nd TES will each fly a two-turn-two, meaning that we'll send up two aircraft, they'll come down, we'll 'turn' them, preparing them for a second flight, and then we'll send them back up," said Bright. "So, it's a four-turn-four for our maintenance unit."

Master Sgt. Christopher Klubertanz, 757th AMXS Strike AMU production superintendent added, "Most other places will have one operations squadron, one schedule, one flying hour program, but with more aircraft, hours and sorties. At Nellis Air Force Base, it's less hours and sorties, but we're dealing with the complexity of two different missions."

Strike AMU helps showcase air power as the 17th WPS takes students from the CAF, who are already on top of their game, and make them even better.

"They go through U.S. Air Force Weapons School, go back to their units, and become the trainers there," said Gray.

With approximately 170 Airmen assigned to Strike AMU working on 16 F-15Es, teamwork is vital to ensuring that the day-to-day mission gets done in a timely manner.

"Seeing the immediate accomplishments is probably one of the most rewarding things about working at Strike," said Bright. "Every day we'll come in and see what our team accomplishes by generating sorties, doing four-turn-fours, and seeing the aircraft fly. Sometimes the aircraft doesn't even get off the ground or comes back broken, but coming in the next day and seeing how the team troubleshot and repaired them is incredibly rewarding."

Gray said that the men and women who work at Strike AMU know how important their roles are and thanks them for all their hard work and dedication to the mission.

"Seeing these young individuals out there being responsible for an aircraft that costs millions of dollars, watching them fix it, and seeing the looks on their faces," he said. "When the rubber meets the road, the people make it happen."