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53 WG activates F-35 Partner Support Complex

Robert Kraus, the new F-35 Partner Support Complex director, unfurls unit's guidon during an activation ceremony May 11, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-35 PSC will provide mission data, intelligence support, lab facilities, and training to the eight partner countries purchasing the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 1st Lt. Amanda Farr)

Robert Kraus, the new F-35 Partner Support Complex director, unfurls unit's guidon during an activation ceremony May 11, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-35 PSC will provide mission data, intelligence support, lab facilities, and training to the eight partner countries purchasing the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force Photo by 1st Lt. Amanda Farr)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 53rd Wing activated the F-35 Partner Support Complex here May 11 in a ceremony at the Bayview Club.

Robert Kraus assumed the new position as F-35 PSC director, making it the first civilian-led unit in the 53rd Wing. Kraus, a lieutenant colonel, served as the 68th Electronic Warfare Squadron commander and 53rd Electronic Warfare Group deputy commander here prior to this new position. 

The F-35 PSC is charged with providing mission data, intelligence support, lab facilities, and training to the eight partner countries purchasing the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.  Currently, all F-35 testing must go through the U.S. owned facility.

"The growth of the PSC will relieve that pressure, as well as ensure our coalition partners are ready to participate in any future operations," said Kraus.

The partner countries include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey. These countries provided critical design input and funding during the early stages of the F-35 program, which differs from Foreign Military Sales customers.

"The PSC will directly support the partners, who currently have no indigenous capability to create mission data for the F-35," said Kraus.

The F-35 PSC will interact with mission data programmers and data analysts from the partner nations. According to Kraus, one of the key projects for the unit is to support the partners in the creation of two separate hardware in the loop testing facilities.  Currently, only one exists.

The F-35 PSC started as a small team within the 513th Electronic Warfare Squadron here, which provides F-35 mission data files to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.  The team staffs 24 civilian employees and contractors, with plans to grow to approximately 100 total.  The new unit will report to the 53rd EWG.

While the mission of the PSC has been ongoing for nearly five years, Kraus sees the formalization of the unit as a positive step.

"The formal activation of the unit will give me a greater ability to support the partners in their efforts," said Kraus. "[I can now] elevate the partner support functions to an equal level with U.S. squadrons as opposed to a subordinate role."

Plans are in the works for two separate buildings to hold the new unit and the partner nations.  This includes the Australia/Canada/United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory building as well as the Norway/Italy Reprogramming Laboratory building. Additional support will be provided to Denmark, the Netherlands and Turkey.