173rd FW prepares for F-35 transition, hosts SATAF Published Nov. 17, 2023 By Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar 173rd Fighter Wing KINGSLEY FIELD, OR -- The 173rd Fighter Wing hosted their first Site Activation Task Force to plan for the transition to an F-35 Fighter Training Unit Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, 2023. More commonly known as a SATAF, this group brings together experts from a multitude of Air Force and civilian agencies and allows the team to convene specific working groups to assess and evaluate multiple areas across the base. “During this SATAF we were able to look at programs and facilities to determine the path forward for success of our transition to an F-35 training mission,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Parrish, 173rd FW Unit Conversion Officer. “We examined everything from facilities, support offices, manning, as well as training of our operations and maintenance personnel.” Parrish said their goal was to put the subject matter experts together for each of these areas to identify tasks, objectives, and timelines for success. “With this being our first SATAF, we knew there would be areas that are going to require focus and planning; that is why we have these working groups,” said Parrish. “Ultimately, as we prepare for first aircraft arrival in Aug. 2026 there is a lot of work to do that Team Kingsley is actively planning toward.” One section the wing isn’t delaying on is training the core cadre of personnel. Planning is already being done to send the first set of maintainers to school and seasoning time at a current F-35 unit as early as next spring. This will give Team Kingsley the first set of trained personnel ready to assist when the first aircraft arrive. "The and initial cadre of personnel will return to the unit prior to aircraft arrival as fully qualified F-35 maintainers and will be responsible for accepting equipment and writing local guidance," said Tech. Sgt. Cassondra Patterson, 173rd Maintenance Training Office. "The biggest role they will take on is to assume control of upgrade training for the rest of the maintenance personnel." Another way Team Kingsley is preparing for the transition is by hosting Luke Air Force Base F-35s on the ramp routinely, with their most recent visit in October. Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander, says these training events with Luke give the wing a better picture of what they will need when converting to an F-35 training unit. “Operating the aircraft from Kingsley helps identify the facilities and procedures we need to be able to permanently base the aircraft at Kingsley Field.” During the SATAF, facilitates were highlighted as one of the biggest areas of focus looking ahead. F-35 construction cannot begin until the Record of Decision is signed following the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement, expected in April 2026. “There are some things we are unable to accomplish until the Record of Decision is signed and all of the legalities are in place,” said Bouma. “However, Team Kingsley is already putting in place the items and preparation we can get after now, ensuring we are ready to transition to an F-35 unit in 2026.” Currently, the 173rd FW is home to the sole F-15C training base for the United States Air Force. The expected plan is for the F-15s to continue their presence at the unit until Feb. 2026. This will give the unit just six months before the Lightning II’s bed-down on the Kingsley Field ramp. “While preparing for our next mission of F-35 pilot training, we are also continuing our current assignment of training F-15 Eagle Drivers for the U.S. Air Force,” said Bouma. He says this is challenging, but he believes Team Kingsley is ready and capable of meeting it in standard superior fashion. "Our culture of excellence and our ability to prioritize will guide through this process of competing demands." Additional SATAFs will convene throughout the transition, with the next site visit tentatively scheduled for May 2024.