News: Pod shop enables “defensive deception”
Story by Senior Airman Bahja Jones
SOUTHWEST ASIA – Electronic countermeasure pods provide a “defensive deception” tool in support of strategic air missions throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The effectiveness of this potentially life-saving technology is dependent on deployed avionics technicians assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron here.
“The 379th EMXS electronic countermeasure centralized repair facility here is the only shop of its kind in the Air Force Central Command AOR, and one of two in Air Force,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Friesen, the 379th EMXS ECM production supervisor deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and a Klamath Falls, Ore., native. “We store and maintain ALQ-184 and ALQ-131 ECM pods and ship them wherever the mission dictates.”
The shop is manned 24/7 by 13 avionics airmen. Once notified, they run a threat verification test, or “hat check,” on the requested pods.
“The hat check allows us to verify the pod responds correctly,” Friesen said, “at which point we verify the proper mission data is loaded.”
The mission data tapes tell the pod what to do, he explained. Their team loads the data based upon instructions from the AFCENT electronic warfare office. The pods are then loaded into “caskets” and shipped out where they are needed. The shipping containers are called caskets because of their shape.
“The goal in our shop is to go from notification to ready to ship in less than six hours,” Friesen said.
Their primary mission when they aren’t shipping is to maintain the fleet of pods stored here through periodic inspections. Regular inspections are required for the two models, which can take several hours to complete. During the inspection phases, they look to their technical orders to provide them information to ensure the pods meet standards.
“After we take them through their inspections, for the most part our TOs will tell us if there is a faulty component and where it is located,” said Tech. Sgt. Omar Ortiz, the 379th EMXS ECM section chief deployed from Shaw AFB, and a Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, native. “But sometimes, it takes experience to narrow down what the problem could be.”
“Probably the most challenging part of the technician side is troubleshooting the pods,” added Friesen. “It takes a lot of experience to actually find the problem quickly without spending too much time having to dig.”
According to Staff Sgt. Isaiah Puma, it takes about two to three years to be a functional and proficient member on the pod maintenance team and until then they are just learning the basics.
The ECM repair shop is able to troubleshoot the pods down to the component level. This means if something is wrong with the pod, the entire device is sent to their repair facility for them to break down and resolve the issue.
“Simply put, if a system doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, the pilot’s life is at risk,” Friesen said.
These avionics technicians are on-call and required to provide well-maintained ECM pods to support strategic operations downrange.
“As long as we are doing the necessary maintenance, the equipment will work as advertised,” said Puma, who is a 379th EMXS ECM team leader deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and a Denver CO., native. “And we’re going to save lives.”
Date Posted:08.30.2013 05:49
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