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AFOTEC commander evaluates operational capability of 33rd FW F-35

  • Published
  • By Airman Christian Corley
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael “Trey” Rawls, commander of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, visited the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Sept. 23, where he attended the senior officer course. 

Rawls conducted his first flight in a F-35A Lightning II from the 60th Fighter Squadron, 33rd FW, Eglin AFB, Sept. 23, to evaluate its ability to meet operational requirements. 

“Our duty is to assess new capabilities, weapons, software and weapons system support in an operationally representative environment,” said Rawls. “Developmental tests will ask, ‘Does it meet the specification?’ We ask, ‘Does it actually provide the utility to the operator, Air Force and to the nation that it was intended to?’”

As a test pilot, Rawls has piloted over 40 different aircraft throughout his time in the Air Force. 

“It gives me the ability to better connect where we’re having challenges and to help steer the priority list of what we need the most to get on the airplane,” said Rawls. “It gives you credibility when you stand in a meeting with senior officers and talk not about what somebody told you, but what you actually saw.”

For Rawls, visiting the 33rd FW is not only for business but a homecoming as well. 

“My first F-15 squadron was the 60th FS in 1999,” said Rawls. “I had previously flown A-10 [Thunderbolt IIs] when I came to the 60th. The Nomads were not too far removed from Desert Storm; there were still four or five MiG killers between the 58th and 60th, so there were big shoes to fill.”

Regardless of the challenges he faced, Rawls still recalls his memories with the 60th. 

“It was a great experience,” said Rawls. “The thing I loved particularly about the 60th is that I’ve never been given more credit for my experience and given more opportunities to succeed.”

Rawls described revisiting the 60th FS as a Brigadier General as being nostalgic. 

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional athlete,” said Rawls. “The first time I got to spend a day in a fighter squadron, I felt, this is what being a professional athlete must be like. None of that has changed, and this airplane, in the peak at it that I’ve gotten, the things it’s designed to do, it does extremely well.”