F-35 Rapid Response Team Takes Repairs on the Road

When issues arise with an F-35 Lightning II, the F-35 Rapid Response Team (RRT) stands ready to get the jet back in the fight.

 “Anything that happens outside the depot—for the Navy, Marines or Air Force—anywhere around the world, they call us and we can deploy these RRT team members at a moment’s notice,” said David Thorpe, F-35 branch head at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) where the team is headquartered.

The RRT consists of expert, cross-trained artisans who hold journey-level, expert status in at least one trade, and a skilled worker-level status in others, Thorpe said.

“The team is like a maintenance and repair special operations force,” he said. “The concept is that we can send fewer people and they can help each other do the work.”

For example, a recent RRT mission to Edwards Air Force Base, California, called for a dedicated low observable (LO) coating technician and a painter plus the removal of a large panel not designed for removal under normal maintenance action, Thorpe said.

The F-35 Rapid Response Team is a highly skilled team of cross-trained aircraft maintenance professionals headquartered at Fleet Readiness Center East. (U.S. Navy photo by Heather Wilburn)

The repair involved a Navy Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 9, DET Edwards, aircraft and the team’s performance impressed leadership at the DET, said Lt. David Quant, the unit’s maintenance officer.

“Our squadron has worked with numerous contractor and depot-level teams and the F-35 RRT left a very positive and lasting impression. It was obvious to us that the RRT was a group of hand-selected individuals who possessed the right level of experience and motivation,” he said. “The team even went above their scope by assisting our Sailors with regression checks and the installation of panels.”

Not only did the RRT get the job done, they managed to do it within their planned time frame—an especially big win for a repair that had yet to be performed. And while this aircraft was not a forward-deployed asset—like the majority of the aircraft repaired by the RRT—meeting that repair schedule on a test aircraft is important to help the Navy realize Initial Operational Capability and system demonstration and development dates, Thorpe said.

Written by Heather Wilburn, a communications specialist with Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs.