April 19, 2021 – Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) recently sold its first F-5N Tiger II, an adversarial training aircraft primarily flown by Navy and Marine Corps squadrons.
“We know how critical the F-5 is to training the Fleet, and as a command, we’re incredibly proud to support the maintenance of this aircraft,” said FRCSE’s Commanding Officer Col. Fred Schenk. “Since the induction of the first F-5, we’ve made significant headway in various maintenance procedures that will help to sustain this aircraft through its service life.”
FRCSE inducted this aircraft on March 4, 2020, the third of nine jets currently undergoing Planned Depot Maintenance (PDM) – a process that is an in depth inspection of the aircraft in known problematic areas for corrosion and metal fatigue, two common issues seen in aging aircraft. The depot expects five more inductions in FY21.
“Every F-5 will receive PDM, with a typical turnaround time of approximately 180 days when full capability is established,” said Ann Marie Dube, FRCSE’s F-5 Production Management Branch Head. “This particular aircraft received paint strip, prime, x-ray, disassembly, examination and evaluation, repairs, reassembly, intake paint, final paint, ground check and a successful test flight.”
Since receiving the first F-5 in September of 2019, the depot has devised the aircraft’s first intake stripping and painting process, among other industry and command firsts.
In fact, paint stripping the F-5 has never been more eco-friendly, as our materials engineering team has created an organic process completed by blasting the jet with a cornstarch hybrid blend. This new paint stripping technique has garnered attention because of its low environmental impact and its quick turnaround.
“Our entire team has risen to meet the challenges presented by the F-5,” said Dube. “Our painters really stepped up, painting the first two jets with custom paint schemes, and for the first time, stripping and painting the entire engine intakes.”
Not only do F-5’s receive different paint based on the squadron and schemes requested, but the F-5 is also unique in that the aft fuselage section, or boat tail, must be removed to gain access to the engines. As a result, to perform any engine function tests, maintenance personnel must entirely remove the boat tail.
“Since we had only a short time to prepare for our first induction, we still have several logistical support issues to address, including tooling and materials,” Dube continued. “However, our artisans tackle every challenge with vigor. We are enthusiastic that we can support the Fleet in this capacity.”
Due to the F-5’s function as a training aircraft, its importance can’t be overstated. Its utilization saves the Navy millions in maintenance costs and unnecessary wear on aircraft like the F-18 Hornet, Super Hornet, and F-35 while ensuring pilots get unparalleled experience with a formidable adversary aircraft.