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Airmen at Eglin Air Force Base’s 33rd Fighter Wing set a new record of 111 flights over three days during a major training exercise this month.

The purpose of the exercise — dubbed a sortie surge — is to test the readiness of maintainers, pilots and aircraft to meet the needs of fast-paced operations.

“Thanks to the Nomads for their tremendous work this week,” said Col. Lance Pilch, 33rd Fighter Wing commander. “This surge not only provided numerous training flights in a short amount of time but also exercised rapid sortie generation, which is critical in certain combat scenarios.”

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Airman 1st Class Lonnie Prater speaks to Lt. Col. Brian O’Grady prior to take off during a sortie surge Aug. 2, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Senior Airman Stormy Archer/Special to The Pulse)

To complete the exercise, maintainers from the 33rd Maintenance Squadron and 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Eglin worked extra hours in the Florida heat and rain to make sure safe and reliable jets were ready for pilots to complete their mission.

“For this particular event we expanded our shifts to 12 hours in an effort to put maximum coverage on each shift,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Bennett, 58th AMU lead production superintendent. “During a surge you are going to put the throttle down and people are going to put in more hours and they are going to work harder. The end result is that you produce a massive number of sorties at the end of the day.

“What we have learned from this week is that the maintainers and pilots stepped up and they were ready.”

The surge took place the same week that the F-35A was declared ready for combat by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command.

“How the aircraft responds to an increased tempo will really give you a feel for where the jet is as far as readiness,” said Bennett. “What we are doing today and the success we have had over the past three days solidifies the (initial operating capability) announcement.”

Airmen from the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit ready an F-35A for takeoff during a sortie surge Aug. 2, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Senior Airman Stormy Archer/Special to The Pulse)

Airmen from the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit ready an F-35A for takeoff during a sortie surge Aug. 2, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Senior Airman Stormy Archer/Special to The Pulse)

The 33rd FW has supported the training of more than 3,000 F-35 maintainers, trained more than 250 pilots, flown more than 11,300 hours and completed more than 7,600 sorties that have contributed to the F-35A being declared ready for operational flights.

“As current threats evolve and new threats emerge, this aircraft will become more and more important to our national security,” said Pilch. “Our Airmen played a vital role in getting us to IOC, and will continue to play a vital role as we move forward.”

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