F-22 vote likely means more F-15 maintenance work for base

Tuesday’s decision by the Senate to end production of the F-22 was of particular consequence for Robins Air Force Base, the Air Force’s repair hub for the F-15.

Fewer F-22s means the Air Force will continue to rely on its existing fleet, and Robins Air Force Base mechanics will continue to be tasked with extending the life of the F-15.

“The Air Force really has no alternative,” said Mackenzie Eaglen of the Heritage Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. “The F-22 fleet as planned is too small to meet the demand for air superiority.”

The F-22 was slated to replace the F-15C and F-15D aircraft as the Air Force’s preferred air-to-air combat platforms. The F-15E aircraft is currently the Air Force’s preferred air-to-ground platform and likely will be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the coming years.

The Air Force had requested as many as 243 F-22 aircraft as early as last year. Tuesday’s vote virtually assures that only 187 F-22s will fly as part of the Air Force fleet.

That leaves the 830th Aircraft Sustainment Group to keep F-15 aircraft flying.

“We are in the process of evaluating the flight critical structural components for both a F-15C and F-15D,” wrote Col. Stephen Niemantsverdriet, 830th commander, in an e-mail Wednesday.

“Currently, our focus is on the aircraft wiring,” he added. “This project will replace all of the aircraft wiring, with the exception of the wiring within the wing and landing gear.”

Beginning in October, the 830th ASG will be replacing wiring on nearly 200 F-15C/D aircraft, Niemantsverdriet said. He predicts the effort will add nearly 4,000 hours to each aircraft.

Additional efforts to maintain the electronic components of the F-15 — radar, navigation and communication systems — will be managed by the 638th Supply Chain Management Group, also located at Robins Air Force Base.

“The F-15s are still a viable aircraft,” said Ed Drohan, spokesman for Robins Air Force Base. “They’re used every day in the war on terror.”

To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.