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NEWS | March 5, 2020

Raptor bird bath: contract gives time back to the mission

By Senior Airman Tristan Biese 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 1st Fighter Wing is responsible for one-third of the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptors and the Airmen of the 1st Maintenance Group are responsible for maintaining them.


However, in order to keep the aircraft mission ready, they must be washed regularly, taking time away from maintainers’ primary duties.


“The amount of work that the Airmen do on maintenance far outweigh the amount of work that they have to put into washing aircraft,” said Nancy Buchanan, 633rd Contracting Squadron contract specialist. “Between an aircraft needing to be washed versus maintenance done on it, there’s no comparison. We want that bird maintained, repaired and in the air.”


As a means of giving time back for maintainers to focus on the mission, the 1st MXG partnered with the 633rd CONS to create a contract that allows the 1st FW’s F-22 Raptors to be washed by contractors here.

According to Buchanan, the contract went into effect September 1, 2019, for more than $1 million for 14 months.


“Every 30 days, every F-22 and most fighters in the inventory, have to [go] through the wash rack,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Dave Seitz, 1st MXG commander. “It’s a job that takes several hours. You have to tow the airplane, you have to prep the jet and then crew chiefs actually have to physically wash the airplane. Then once that’s done, you tow it back to the parking spots and go on to the next jet.”


According to Buchanan, throughout the year more than 700 washes will be conducted equating to nearly 14,000 hours that the 1st MXG maintainers can focus on maintaining the jets instead of washing them.


“The wash rack contract is an effort to alleviate our crew chiefs’ workload,” Seitz said. “Essentially we can fix and fly more airplanes without having to pull those sortie generators off to do a necessary task.”


Previously, the aircraft were only washed Monday through Friday, but with the new contract, F-22s are now being washed Wednesday through Sunday.


“We’ve actually decreased the workload on our skilled maintainers without degrading the readiness of the airplanes at all,” Seitz said. “By having more airplanes available, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays when those accounts are the highest, that gives our pilots a much better chance at the high-end fight.”


The contract not only allows the Airmen to focus on the mission, but it also raised their morale by decreasing their workload. Seitz said that every Airman he has spoken to has given positive feedback about the change.


While the washing of aircraft throughout the U.S. Air Force has been contracted before, this is the first time it has been done for the Raptor.


“As we continue down the path of innovation and thinking outside the box, we look at things that have been done before and we look at things that have been talked about but not implemented,” Seitz said. “Hopefully we’ll continue and we’ll find more avenues to go after and look for ways to advocate how a little bit of money really goes a long way.”


The leadership of the 1st MXG strive to ensure that their Airmen set the standard for low observable and aircraft maintenance, keeping the 1st FW as the nation’s premier air dominance wing and this contract allows them to do just that.