Repurposing damaged F-35 fighter jets for training at Hill AFB

Mar 2, 2023, 6:50 PM | Updated: 7:04 pm

HILL AIR FORCE BACE — Two F-35s that were involved in accidents are being repurposed and used for training at Hill Air Force Base.

The fighters can cost around $80 million each, but airmen are hoping these efforts can help save money.

The mishap rate with F-35s is low when compared with other fighters. We would all like it to never happen… but by saving the larger pieces for training to airmen who maintain and fix them… they believe they can save millions of dollars.

Sgt. Andrew Wilkow said it’s huge for him and others in the 388th maintenance group.

“It’s exciting. No one’s done this before. It’s new ground. We can innovate and make things happen,” Wilkow said. “What we are able to do now is work on damaged and destroyed airplanes to substitute using real, live airplanes and not affect the flying mission of the 388th,” he said.

Wilkow showed KSL a cockpit that was taken from a marine variant of the F-35 that was damaged in a landing mishap.

This cockpit that was taken from a marine variant of the F-35 that was damaged in a landing mishap. (KSL TV)

Even the smallest repair gone wrong can be very expensive, and this new idea lets them practice without that risk.

Tech Sgt. Kevin Browning is working on a training program with such pieces.

“This is going to give them that opportunity to get the training that they need to actually perfect their skills on something that’s not as important as a new F-35,” Browning said.

Another F-35 that was damaged during landing at Eglin Air Force Base will be used on larger repairs on the body of the plane.

“That airplane, it’s a large majority of the fuselage, where we can actually do more fuel cell maintenance, which is really intrusive, as well as hydraulic system maintenance,” Browning said.

Building a training unit on its own would otherwise cost around $10 million. That’s why these airmen say it’s important to take these kinds of opportunities.

“The ability for us to train and be ready to go and get those airplanes in the air is vital,” Wilkow said.

When it comes to the F-35 that crashed at Hill Air Force Base last October, it’s still too soon to know if any of that plane could be repurposed for training, but they said its unlikely because of the severity of that accident.


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Repurposing damaged F-35 fighter jets for training at Hill AFB