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Have Tools, Will Travel

Who Do You Call When Your F-35 Breaks Down in the South Pacific?

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) is a U.S. Navy aviation repair and maintenance facility located in Havelock, NC on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. With annual revenue in excess of $1-billion and more than four-thousand civilian, military and contract workers, the facility is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, and one of nine main subsidiaries of the Navy's Fleet Readiness Center Command.

Among FRCE’s cadre of skilled technicians are Rapid Response Teams (RRT) that can expediently deploy to Marine Corps Air Stations around the globe and Navy vessels plying the world’s oceans.

As more operational squadrons convert from legacy aircraft to the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35 Rapid Response Team’s workload has increased.
In fiscal year 2022—which started 21 October 2021 and runs through 30 September 2022—the F-35 RRT has seen almost fifty-percent more deployments than it saw in all of fiscal 2021.

Jeanie Holder, F-35 Joint Program Office induction manager at FRCE states, “The requirement for depot-level support of specific repairs has led to a higher demand for RRT support, which allowed the squadrons flying the aircraft to reduce the downtime when compared to sending the aircraft to a Fleet Readiness Center for traditional depot-level service. Having the RRT team available to travel to the aircraft in need has made FRCE the go-to provider for these repairs, rather than sending the aircraft to a depot facility for modification.”

Recent deployments to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan; the USS Carl Vinson; and the USS Abraham Lincoln have allowed the F-35 RRT to shine in its support of naval aviation and flight line readiness.

At MCAS Iwakuni, the team repaired two F-35B aircraft for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), the first forward-deployed permanent F-35 squadron in the Marine Corps.

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson—afloat in the Indo-Pacific region—the F-35 RRT assisted with repairs to an F-35C assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 147, the Navy’s first non-training F-35 squadron. The team’s expertise facilitated a repair that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible aboard ship.

Twice in 2022, the F-35 RRT has worked aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, assisting Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 in the repair of several F-35C aircraft.

VMFA-314 Aircraft Maintenance Officer Maj. Derek Heinz said of the RRT’s efforts, “The work performed by the team enables the squadron to have enough aircraft to conduct our missions on a daily basis. Without assistance from this team, we would have thirty-percent of our jets out of the fight.”

The F-35 RRT’s depth of skill, flexibility, and ability to put aircraft that would otherwise be grounded while awaiting depot-level maintenance is an immensely valuable asset to the F-35 fleet, and a testimonial to scope and proficiency of U.S. Naval Aviation.

FMI: www.navy.mil, www.navair.mil


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