‘Dirt Boyz’ assist in F-35A testing

‘Dirt Boyz’ assist in F-35A testing

U.S. Air Force civilian Matt Green, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and construction equipment operator, sprays water on the flight line to create ice for F-35A Lightning II testing Nov. 4, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Ice was intentionally created on the flight line to help the F-35A get certified for a low runway condition reading. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

‘Dirt Boyz’ assist in F-35A testing

An F-35A Lightning II prepares to maneuver on an icy runway Nov. 4, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Eielson is slated to receive two F-35A squadrons in 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

‘Dirt Boyz’ assist in F-35A testing

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jerred Davis, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and construction equipment operator, clears the flight line of snow Nov. 4, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Eielson’s airfield caters to the 168th Wing, one of the highest tasked re-fueling wings in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

‘Dirt Boyz’ assist in F-35A testing

U.S. Air Force civilian Matt Green, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) pavement and construction equipment operator, pulls a truck into the snow barn to be filled with water Nov. 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The truck was used to spray water on the flight line to help the F-35A Lightning II get certified for a low runway condition reading. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

‘Dirt Boyz’ assist in F-35A testing

U.S. Air Force civilian Tim Hardman, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) work leader, supervises a truck creating ice for an F-35A Lightning II test Nov. 4, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The 354th CES “Dirt Boyz” helped the F-35A testing process by clearing the air-field of snow and providing a controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

The “Dirt Boyz” of the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron are always on the go; during the summer, they help maintain infrastructure around the base and in the winter they ensure Eielson’s airfield is free of snow and ice.

 

They have an extra job to do this winter, which is to help ensure the F-35A Lightning II is prepared for cold weather conditions.

 

“We at CE have to make sure the runway is free of snow and ice every day,” said Timothy Hardman, the 354th CES work leader. “Once that is done, we create ice on the flight line so the F-35 can test.”

 

The F-35A was here to be certified to operate on an icy runway, and although it may seem easy in the Alaskan environment, it’s not that simple.

 

“The reason we have to create the ice is because it has to be set to a specific RCR [runway condition reading],” said Hardman. “We provide the F-35 team with the controlled environment needed to perform its testing.”

 

The RCR scale is based on how wet and dry each runway is. RCR 23 is considered a dry runway while RCR 5 is compared to landing on ice. The testing for the F-35A was designed to certify the aircraft, which is presently capable of landing at an RCR 12, is able to land at an RCR of 7.

 

Typically, ice on an airfield is a bad thing. So naturally the 354th CES did not have equipment specifically designed to create it on the runway. That’s where the “Dirt Boyz” used something known to all Airmen, innovation.

 

“To help with this testing, we repurposed one of our trucks to create ice instead of removing it,” said Hardman. “We use this truck to spray water on the flight line; after each pass, the RCR is tested until we get to the number we need.”

 

The accomplishment of RCR testing for the Air Force’s newest fifth generation fighter aircraft is important, but equally important is how the “Dirt Boyz” efforts are helping prepare Eielson for what is on the horizon.

 

“Their contributions to the testing are going to feed directly into our ability to operate the F-35 when it’s assigned here,” said Col. Todd Robbins, the 354th Fighter Wing vice commander. “And because of that, what these Airmen are doing now will directly contribute to the combat capability of Eielson Air Force Base in the future.”