NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
The F-22 Raptor is one of the U.S. Air Force’s fifth generation fighter aircraft, performing both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century fight.
With the combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, and advanced situational awareness technology, the F-22 Raptor airframe allows the pilot to track, identify, shoot and neutralize threats before being detected.
“[The F-22] is basically a giant computer,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Geller, 94th Aircraft Maintenance Unit integrated avionics craftsmen. “So honestly, think of us as the Geek Squad for the F-22.”
If one of the computer components malfunctions, it is the job of the integrated avionics specialists to correct the issue and get the aircraft flying as soon as possible.
“Without avionics specialists, we could not fly this aircraft,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Hunter, 94th AMU superintendent. “We need their specialty. They take care of everything from communication, radar and radar warning - everything the pilot needs to successfully accomplish the mission.”
Due to the simulated deployed environment of Red Flag 19-3, the integrated avionics specialists must know how the aircraft reacts to a different environment. Whether it's the high temperatures, the dry weather, the harsh sun or anything else that may affect the aircraft, the specialists have to adapt to the changes to keep the F-22 operational.
“At the end of the day we ensure that every time our avionics specialists go out and respond to [an issue] that they are giving the most effective and timely fix so we can get that aircraft back into the fight,” Hunter said.
If a problem occurs, the specialists first try to solve the problem on the flightline by speaking with the pilot about what the issue may be.
“Here at Red Flag we are simulating a deployed environment,” said Geller. “At the maintenance level, we're supposed to be relying on our teams and not reaching out to anybody.”
According to Geller, a problem could usually be resolved just by restarting the systems. However, if the specialists are unable to fix the issue on the flightline, they then take the data transfer cartridge and download the data to a computer to run diagnostics.
Once the specialists pinpoint the issue with the data they’ve collected, they take corrective actions to fix it. They then run another check to ensure the aircraft is ready to complete its mission.
“We’re fifth gen so we're top of the food chain for fighters,” Geller said. “So we want to ensure that our jets are ready to go and take the fight to the enemy.”
Whether they are at their home station, in a deployed environment or even at a large scale exercise, the integrated avionics specialists of the 94th FS are there to ensure that the computer systems of the F-22 Raptor are functioning properly, allowing the pilot to hit their target when they are called upon.