June 5 (UPI) -- Maintenance personnel of F-35A fighter planes have improved versatility under an innovative new program, the U.S. Air Force said.
Blended Operational Lightning Technicians, or BOLTs, from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, are currently deployed at Aviano Air Base in Italy and have made their 388th Fighter Wing the first to be qualified in six different aspects of F-35A maintenance, the Air Force announced on Wednesday.
The BOLT program combines maintenance-specific Air Force specialty codes, or job descriptions, into two career tracks. Maintainers in the air vehicle track are crew chiefs, fuels and low observable technicians. Airmen in the mission systems track focus on avionics, weapons and egress.
The reciprocal training allows a single person to inspect, as well as repair or maintain, critical elements of the plane, rather than a two-step, two-person process of inspection and maintenance.
"The BOLT Airmen who are here with us offer widespread benefit. They will allow us to deploy the same aircraft with a smaller number of Airmen than we would at home station," Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander, said in a news release. "This is a new way to train our Airmen to be more operationally focused and that ties directly to the primary mission sets of the F-35A."
The entire squadron, including planes, pilots and crew, and technicians, arrived in Italy on May 26. F-35A maintenance has become an experimental platform for the Air Force.
In March, a training exercise at Cannon AFB, N.M., involved the rapid refueling of a plane. The exercise demonstrated the capability of landing an F-35A, then refueling and rearming it to return to battle in minutes.
In March, another F-35A landed at Hill AFB after completing a mission, and was refueled while another pilot and crew took over the cockpit of the same plane.