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Preps for strike fighter a few steps closer
Sundt Construction recently completed a flight simulator facility at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for training pilots of the military’s new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
"This is only the second simulator facility in the country for the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter," announced Sundt project manager Frank Bejarano. "On top of it being our construction, it’s always a great thing to do it for the military."
As the future home of the first F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the country, MCAS Yuma will get five squadrons each with 16 aircraft, and one operational test and evaluation squadron of eight aircraft. The 88 aircraft, which will arrive in phases beginning later this year, will replace Yuma’s four existing squadrons of 56 AV-8B Harriers.
Bejarano said the U.S. Navy also chose the Phoenix-based Sundt, which has an office in Yuma, to build a field-carrier landing practice training facility at MCAS Yuma’s Barry M. Goldwater Range, with construction getting under way in June.
"It’s a project that I will remember for its uniqueness. It’s definitely right in our wheelhouse because we have a paving crew that specializes in that type of work. Also the buildings are pretty small."
Sundt began working at the air station in June 2011, shortly after being selected by the U.S. Navy as the project’s general contractor. The two-story, 43,150-square-foot flight simulator was part of $150 million worth of construction projects taking place at the air station over the next several years.
Other projects included the construction of three new hangars and upgrades to communication and utilities infrastructures. As much as $500 million could be allotted to the air station by 2015 for construction and renovation of airfield facilities and infrastructure as it continues to modernize.
According to Lt. Col. Dwight E. De Jong, director of the Joint Strike Fighter Site Activation Team for MCAS Yuma, the simulator will allow the pilots to train virtually before conducting flight operations in an actual aircraft.
"This is preferred and proper method of training the world’s best aviators flying high-performance jet aircraft. Additionally, as improvements are made over the life of the program to the air system capability, the simulator will once again allow the aviator to first test the change under a more controlled environment prior to releasing the capability to the aircraft."
De Jong said the importance of the flight simulator is twofold — in both cost and effectiveness. He explained that half of the training F-35 pilots go through can be accomplished in the simulator. Also, by training in the simulator, they can avoid most of the obstacles that currently challenge daily operations, such as weather conditions, maintenance and range availability can be avoided.
Additionally, De Jong said the simulator has the capability of being modified, allowing pilots to train for all types of situations, such as how to evade enemy weapons, fly in adverse weather conditions and what to do when they experience an aircraft malfunction during flight.
The first two aviators of hundreds to arrive in Yuma are completing flight training in Florida and will be using the simulator upon their return. De Jong added that the facility, and the flexibility built into it, potentially offers other sister services the opportunity to use the simulator.
Working within stringent security and noise-control requirements, Bejarano said, Sundt maintained a rigorous 12-month construction schedule to get the building done in time. He said coordinating the installation of raised-access flooring and an under-floor cable tray contributed to the challenges Sundt’s crews managed throughout the job.
The field-carrier landing practice training facility will consist of a paved airfield, flight control tower, air operation facility, fire and rescue shelter, aircraft fueling areas, aircraft maintenance shelter and vertical take-off and landing pads.
Simulating the deck of an amphibious assault ship — the ships found in a Marine expeditionary unit — it is to be built in a remote location on the Goldwater range. Currently, pilots practice their carrier landings at a facility known as Auxiliary Airfield II.
Although the new training facility will primarily be used by F-35Bs and AV-8B Harriers, it can also be used — day or night — by other Marine aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and MV-22 Osprey, as well as Huey and Cobra helicopters.
Bejarano said while every construction job has its challenges, he expects the 12-month build time to be the biggest obstacle.
"The location, being out on the range, is one of the biggest constraints. Getting concrete in and out of that location is an hour round-trip."
Sundt has completed federal construction projects on various military installations across the country, including Fort Bliss, Fort Sam Houston and Fort Hood in Texas, as well as installations in Louisiana, North Carolina and Oklahoma. The company is also building the John M. Roll U.S. Courthouse in Yuma.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.