JOINT BASE LANGLEY- EUSTIS, Va. --
Before an F-22 Raptor aircraft takes off for training or a combat mission, maintainers and weapons Airmen are seen on the flightline preparing, servicing and readying the jet to contest any airspace.
However, it takes more than fifth generation machinery and flightline crews to accomplish the mission -- a small team of behind-the-scenes Airmen ensure those piloting the stealth aircraft are flight and combat capable.
According to Lt. Col. Habu, 94th Fighter Squadron commander, these specific operational career field Airmen are the ones behind-the-curtain that that play a critical role to the operations side of missions.
“Between the three teams of Airmen, they are providing the information, our gear and training to execute our combat readiness,” Habu said. “They are the keepers of our readiness.”
Mission planning and gathering intelligence are the first steps. During this, specific pilots are chosen to fly sorties based on their skill sets and current training. Then, they go into mission planning where they use the data from their intelligence analyst Airmen to develop a plan.
Mapping out the Intel
There are many types of intelligence analysts who gather specific types of data, but in the 94th FS, all-source analysts are trained to view all types of data. These analysts provide the most up-to-date view of current situations on the ground in a training scenario or real world combat.
According to Senior Airman John Hartin, 94th FS all source intelligence analyst, having the capability to look at the big picture and understand all types of data increases mission effectiveness and improves wartime scenario preparation.
“An analyst’s duty is to make sure that the aircrew and the aircraft get home safely by updating them with any pertinent information on threats and by charting out maps to give a visual representation of threats,” Hartin said. “With our data, we can bring them home as safe as possible.”
The analysts use maps to plot out all data points they have been given to show the reach for each weapon or defense system.
The pilots then use the printed out map to complete the process of mission planning and will prepare the four-ship or mission commanders for the execution of the plan.
What is SARM?
Ensuring pilots are combat ready at all times, squadron aviation resource managers are the Airmen maintaining each pilot’s initial, annual and monthly Ready Aircrew Program training.
According to Staff Sgt. Lauren Craig, 94th FS SARM, the SARM also coordinates with maintenance before the pilots step to ensure the aircraft are in good condition and ready to go.
“The SARM's purpose is to effectively manage and update all aircrew flight hours, both ground and flying training, as well as sorties flown each month,” Craig said. “We have a great team here in the 94th SARM, and we work hard to ensure these great pilots are safe and ready.”
After training requirement verification, the pilots head to aircrew flight equipment as their last stop before heading to their jets.
Helmets, Parachutes and G-suits, Oh my!
Aircrew flight equipment is a key piece to pilot safety while in the air and on the ground. Pilots’ lives are in the AFE Airmen’s hands at all times of flight as they ensure parachutes, G-suits and night vision googles are mission ready and in the worst case, ejection ready.
According to Staff Sgt. Robert Strayer, 1st Operational Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, AFE makes sure all the pilots’ equipment is flight efficient: including survival equipment, breathing equipment, oxygen equipment and anything it takes for them to fly their jet.
“If our equipment and work is not exceeding the standards the pilot could go hypoxic, they could crash, and may not be able to breathe,” Strayer said. “We pack each parachute, clean and prepare each piece of gear with every life in mind, so it all comes together for their safety. You have to do your job quickly, efficiently and you need to get it all done to make sure that the pilots are safe.”
According to Habu, the 94th FS’ operations Airmen are experts in their field, who clearly understand the importance of supporting the mission.
“These roles are important, because the functions that these Airmen provide are absolutely critical to the mission,” Habu continued. “We could not execute if we did not have the intelligence that the analysts provide. If I didn’t absolutely trust every time that I put on my harness to fly it was going to work, there is no way I could trust that airplane is safe to be in. Finally, I am having to provide 10,000 plus training items that the SARMs provide to relay up to the command, the 94th FS training status and combat readiness.”