F135 engine depot open for business

  • Published
  • By John Parker
  • Staff Writer
The nation's first military maintenance and repair depot for the F135 engine that powers the next-generation F-35 fighter officially opened Monday at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex.

Currently in the late stages of international testing, the F-35 Lightning II is slated to become the frontline fighter for the United States and allies beginning as early as July with the Marine Corps.

The Department of Defense plans to buy more than 2,400 of the single-engine, supersonic jets powered by the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

"This is a team accomplishment," said Brig. Gen. Gene Kirkland, OC-ALC commander.
"This milestone is the culmination of work by the 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group's skilled artisans, the vision of our Complex's business office and the tremendous partnership with Pratt & Whitney and the Joint Program Office.

"Our demonstrated ability to adapt to future needs for our nation's military is key to keeping Oklahoma City at the forefront of sustaining our warfighters," the general said.

"This work is good for Oklahoma City, it's good for our workforce, our partners, our Air Force and, most importantly, it's good for our nation."

The F135 Heavy Maintenance Center occupies 33,000 square feet inside Tinker's massive Bldg. 3001. It will grow to 65,000 square feet over three years, officials said.

The facility is slated to be the only DOD F135 engine depot through at least 2020.

Cheryl Lobo, director of Pratt & Whitney's F135 program, said the depot is on track to have the ability to overhaul the full F135 engine by late 2015. 

"With over 1,700 F-35s slated to be delivered to the U.S. Air Force, another 700 aircraft for the U.S. Marines and the Navy, you can see that it it should come as no big surprise that this facility will see a lot of maintenance, repair and overhaul work ... in the next decades to come," Ms. Lobo said.

"As depots are being established in Europe and the Pacific theater, all the work we are doing here in this partnership will become the model for how we do our international depots," Ms. Lobo said.

Work on the F135 engine depot began in 2011 and involved mechanic training, technical qualifications and installation of an F135 T-9 engine test cell near Tinker's Bldg. 9001.

In July, mechanics and technicians began retrofitting F135 engines for the Marine Corps. 

Depot work at Tinker is critical to meeting the Marines' ambitious goal of next July to be the first branch to fly the jets in active service, also known as Initial Operational Capability.

The F135 center so far has also tested and delivered four engine fan modules in unscheduled repairs, officials said.

Tinker's Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex is a major DOD engine hub with over 8 million square feet of industrial floor space to maintain, repair and overhaul more than a dozen engine types. The Complex employs more than 9,400 military and civilian personnel.

The base's workload includes engines that power B-1 and B-52 bombers, KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System planes and the Navy's E-6 command and control aircraft, as well a number of fighter aircraft.