News: Ordnance technicians ensure warheads hit foreheads
Story by Lance Cpl. Charles Clark
A Marine walks out from under the F/A-18 Hornet wing and looks up at the sky. He sees a mix of light and dark gray.
He looks back and sees the Marine All -Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 ordnance technicians directing the suspension lugs of a joint direct attack munitions 500 pound bomb into the ejector rack of the aircraft.
Droplets of water falling from the heavens make tiny beads on the wing the Marines are under.
There are still three more bombs to be loaded. The Marines know the pilots won’t be able to complete their exercise if these bombs aren’t off the ground.
The rain doesn’t make the mission any easier, but it is the ordnance technicians job to load, unload, inspect and maintain the bombs used for their squadron.
“Anything that goes boom, we put on the aircraft,” said Cpl. Drew H. Carley, a VMFA(AW)-533 ordnance technician.
The technician’s role is more far reaching than people probably expect.
“What we do in our loading of ordnance is support the ground units,” said Sgt. Alanna M. Puzzuoli, a VMFA(AW)-533 ordnance technician.
The air support the ground units call for can’t happen without the technicians loading the aircraft with bombs.
Depending on the situation, different ordnance is loaded on the aircraft.
“There’s no reason for us to do what we do without ordnance,” said Capt. Ernie Drake, a VMFA(AW)-533 pilot.
There are “smart” bombs with laser guided technology that can pinpoint a target when launched. “Dumb” bombs are released over a target. Various air-to-air missiles are loaded to protect the pilots and aircraft if they were in a dogfighting scenario.
The bombs vary from 200 to 2,000 pounds in weight and approximately half the weight is explosive.
“We put a huge amount of trust in our ordnance technicians when they strap a few thousand pounds of explosives to our aircraft,” Drake said. “We can go into a mission knowing we’re safe because our technicians know what they’re talking about.”
Some ordnance is used for training purposes only.
“We have 2,000-pound, blue colored training bombs that we call ‘blue death’ as a joke,” said Lance Cpl. William C. Sanborn, a VMFA(AW)-533 ordnance technician. “It does the exact same thing as a normal 2,000-pound bomb except it doesn’t go boom.”
The purpose of the nonexplosive ordnance is so the pilots know how to adjust their aircraft after releasing that much weight from one of the wings.
Depending on the weight of the ordnance, the technicians can either use hernia bars for handloading the lighter bombs or a munitions loader to load the heavier ordnance on the aircraft.
The munitions loader is like a forklift, but designed specifically to speed up the loading and unloading of ordnance without sacrificing the precision needed to keep the process safe.
After unloading the ordnance during the maintenance process, the technicians look over each bomb for any discrepancies or damage.
Like any other weapon, the bombs have expiration dates.
The technicians need to be aware of the expiration dates of each explosive to send it to the Marine aviation logistics squadron they are working with at the time for the bomb to be properly disposed of.
If the ordnance has expired, it can still be loaded but only for transportation to a MALS for disposal.
“The bombs aren’t armed. So there isn’t that much danger as long as we execute all the proper safety procedures, which we always do,” Carley said.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a clear, sunny day or a downpour, the VMFA(AW)-533 ordnance technicians ensure bombs are loaded, unloaded and maintained to keep the pilots safe and the aircraft mission ready.