Chaff, flares, bullets and bombs - how munitions element gives Falcon its claws
By Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones , 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 15, 2008
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Throughout aviation history airplanes have been graced with names that help define the perception and character of the aircraft.
From breath-taking natural events like thunder that helped define the F-84 Thunderstreak which clapped fear into the hearts of its enemies, to symbols of strength like the finely honed blade from which the F-100 Super Sabre got its name, airplane names have been around for generations.
The modern F-16 Fighting Falcon received its name from a bird whose tapered wings enable it to fly at high speeds while making rapid changes in direction; a gift of nature.
In addition, the falcon possesses sharp talons. At the 162nd Fighter Wing, F-16s are given the sharpest talons courtesy of the munitions storage element here.
"Our mission is to supply the highest quality munitions in support of the war-fighter's mission, to the test center and to supply the alert detachment for homeland defense," said Senior Master Sgt. Ernest Ortner Jr., munitions element supervisor.
"The munitions element managed 86,663 chaffs, flares and BDU-33 practice bombs from cradle-to-grave so far this year, not including those used at our Davis-Monthan detachments," said Master Sgt. Jim Stenger, assistant munitions supervisor.
Chaff and flares are countermeasures used in combat maneuvers to confuse enemy radar and heat-seeking missiles. BDU-33 bombs are miniature versions of larger bombs used for practice - just to give pilots a visual confirmation of their targeting ability.
"We train the student pilots on a number of weapons, some of which are simulated," said Maj. Brian Grasky, munitions and electronics warfare officer. If they have experience flying with and using munitions during training the pilots will know what to expect and have confidence in combat when it's needed most, he said.
The bulk of the element's work is maintaining 100 percent accountability of weapons and explosives - every bullet, every bomb.
The first step is to conduct a careful inspection of all munitions brought onto the base to ensure they are serviceable. Defective items are repaired or replaced. After incoming munitions are inspected, some require assembly and loading.
"Here, we swap expended munitions with fresh ones, mostly chaff and flares," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Enriquez, ordinance equipment technician while conducting a "turn" on the flight line.
While carefully observing the safety requirements necessary for the 162nd to share a public runway at Tucson International Airport, they also do their part to ensure missions are accomplished at D-M.
"Live munitions are built up and loaded at Davis-Monthan; they're used for training students, visiting Snowbird units and the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Test Center," he said.
After munitions are used, from a simple 9 mm round to a large 40 mm, the Airmen must inspect each one to ensure no explosive residue remains. Once properly inspected, the brass and aluminum casings are recycled.
"Munitions' recycling contributes more than $35,600 per year to the Quality Recycling Program (QRP)," said Cheryl Settle, Environmental Programs Specialist. "Collectively, between the program on base and the one at Snowbird, they have helped deposit $45,000 to the QRP this year alone. The QRP contributes to base events like the wing picnic and Haunted Hanger. In addition, the QRP funds help purchase pollution prevention, safety and health related items. Their work helped the base purchase Cadmium water treatment systems for the aircraft washrack and AGE washbay. "
"We handle everything that has to do with munitions," said Staff Sgt. Donald O'Neal, munitions accountability team leader. "Without us, complete pilot training cannot get accomplished, and the F-16 is fast-moving jet without 'claws.'"