Maintenance Squadron leads recovery training with international partners

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Nathan Poblete
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Recently, the 388th Maintenance Squadron hosted its first-ever F-35A recovery training exercise in partnership with the Royal Danish Air Force here.

The primary goal was to educate students on an industrial-scale airbag system used in aircraft recovery and maintenance. Spanning four days, the training was led by experts from the Crash and Recovery section of the 388th Maintenance Squadron.

"Our goal is to educate how to recover and repair aircraft safely without causing further damage,” said U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Mathew Rettig, the Crash and Recovery Section Chief and the 388th Maintenance Squadron’s trainings officer.  “In the event of a jet crash or gear collapse, this training will replicate where the whole aircraft is lifted off the ground.  These are where these aircraft lifting packs come into play.”

During the training, students learned how to operate a specialized airbag system capable of lifting the F-35A aircraft, weighing more than 21,200 pounds, six feet above the ground. What set this achievement apart was the ability to suspend the F-35A solely using these modified airbags, allowing personnel to safely work on the jet, a first in the industry.

"We are introducing foreign and joint partners to the Air Force mindset and methodology, effectively pioneering new training and best practices for future operations,” Rettig said.

With this new process, other joint and international partners such as the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Japanese Air Force have visited the 388th FW to receive hands-on training to introduce to their own organizations.

"We eagerly anticipate benefiting from the extensive knowledge gathered here and we’re aiming to integrate these insights into the Danish Air Force's operations back home," said Klaus Johansen, a Senior Master Sergeant in the Danish Air Force.

This joint initiative not only advanced the Danish Air Force's technical proficiency, but also further solidified the bonds between partners and allies, Johansen said.

As the F-35 program grows, training on new technology and procedures such as this airbag system shows how 388th Fighter Wing Airmen are paving the way in the program.   

"The F-35 offers a host of new capabilities and promotes cooperation between partners. It’s designed to address diverse operational challenges," said Captain Soeren Madsen of the Danish Air Force and student of the training class.

Planners and participants in the class said the partnership exemplified the importance of international cooperation in air defense.