By Shannon Collins
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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — In modern-day warfare, it is those who first control the skies who have the best chance of winning battles on the ground. For the grandson of a Placerville man, helping the United States military continue its 60-year reign of worldwide air superiority is all but a day at the office.
Air Force Senior Airman Herbert Tucker, grandson of Herbert Tucker of Placerville, is working with the newest, most advanced aircraft in the Department of Defense arsenal, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. He works in aircraft maintenance as a crewchief with the 33rd Maintenance Group, 33rd Fighter Wing here.
The F-35 is full of unprecedented avionics advances and has a high level of combat survivability — its stealth technology makes it difficult to be detected by enemy fighters. The F-35 is fast, has increased maneuverability and pilots have a 360-degree view inside their helmets with digital views beyond peripheral.
Within the F-35 program, Tucker specializes in maintaining the F-35 and performing pre- and post-flight checks. He received familiarization training on the new systems, although his previous experience was with the F-15 Eagle.
“I worked on the engines on the F-15, and now I work on the F-35 engine as well. The F-35 engine is far superior,” said Tucker, a 2007 graduate of El Dorado High School in Placerville. “I had to learn a whole new job. Everything I’m learning on the F-35 is new, and it provides me challenges to help me grow as a maintainer and an airman.”
The F-35 is currently in testing and is being used for training purposes. He said he is proud to be a part of this groundbreaking, technologically advanced fighter.
Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace American military aircraft that have been used for decades — the F-16 and A-10 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighter aircraft for allied countries.
“I’m extremely happy and proud of what I do,” Tucker said. “I encourage anyone to join the Air Force. It changes you in good ways.”
Tucker joined the Air Force in 2007 and has been stationed in Florida and England.