DVIDS – News – Hand painting and high-tech stealth


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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, UTAH – How do you make a fighter plane that is 51 feet long and 35 feet wide undetectable? There is no dark magic that can make the F-35A Lightning II invisible, but it does have masking features that make it difficult to detect, track, or target by radar with missiles or by an enemy aircraft. The capes of these planes are called unobservable technology and are managed by highly trained aviators.

“You can’t just read the steps in the manual,” said Master Sgt. John Knowles, section chief of 388 Maintenance Squadron. “There are requirements for who can do it and inspect it… We take doing it right very seriously.”

With stealth engineered from day one, the F-35 has an unmatched ability to evade enemy detection and enter contested airspace. The F-35’s aligned edges, reduced engine signature, internal weapon and fuel transport, and integrated sensors all contribute to its unique stealth performance.
General Charles Q. Brown said: “The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the cornerstone of our future fighter force and our air superiority. Achieving air superiority in future combat is highly dependent on full spectrum dominance. The F-35 and its 5th generation capabilities are part of the design of our fighter force that outperforms our main competitors. “

The F-35A has several panels that are frequently removed for routine maintenance, and there are various fasteners that hold the body panels in place. Without this maintenance, the aircraft’s ability to avoid radar and various defense systems using specialized materials can deteriorate.

“The panels go through a very thorough process of different coatings just to remove the latches and cover the fasteners. Ultimately there has to be a balance between covering the panel with the appropriate material while maintaining full functionality, ”says Master Sgt. Matthew Hicks, 419th Low-Observable Craftsman Maintenance Squadron. “This is the most frequently performed work in the shop, while encompassing the processes of many of their tasks within the unit. ”

Part of maintaining low observable functions is corrosion control where technicians apply and remove coatings that could cover up rust or damage.

“My favorite part of the job is the painting because it’s kind of like an art, you can see it from the start, then see it from the end,” says Airman 1st Class Evander Esperanza, Observable Companion of the 388th Maintenance squadron.
Maintaining this radar-absorbing coating on the surface of the F-35 is a very painstaking, sometimes tedious job – masking every little area, mixing the chemicals properly, applying them accurately, smoothing out and grading the smallest. imperfections.

The work done by these craftsmen ensures that the coating is aesthetically pleasing, so other people working on the jet will notice that everything is covered underneath and cannot be damaged. Without these coatings, equipment can corrode and delay flight line operations.

“We pride ourselves on being experts in our craft because it depends so much on us,” Knowles said. “There is definitely an art in what we do. ”

Date taken: 12.07.2021
Date posted: 01.01.2022 00:10
Story ID: 412303
Site: HILL AIR FORCE BASE, CA, US

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