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Weapons troop helps shoot down satellite

  • Published
  • By Capt. Gabe Johnson
  • 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The downing of a dying U.S. reconnaissance satellite with a missile  Feb. 20 was the latest shot heard round the world, and no one heard it louder than the Arizona Air National Guardsman tasked to confirm the mission's success.

Staff Sgt. Byron Koomia, a weapons troop assigned to Tucson's 162nd Fighter Wing, works as an electrical engineer for Raytheon when he's not in uniform. He was on board the AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie as one of five Raytheon engineers sent make a lethality assessment to determine whether the satellite was destroyed or not.

The objective was to rupture the fuel tank to dissipate the approximately 1,000 pounds of hydrazine, a hazardous fuel, before it entered into earth's atmosphere.

The complex operation began in January, according to Sergeant Koomia, when President George W. Bush made a phone call to Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering, the Acquisition Executive for all Ballistic Missile D e f e n s e S y s t ems .

Could the general put together a team to take out the hydrazine tank on board the satellite?

General Obering contacted Raytheon, which put together a team of its finest engineers to take on the mission. Koomia was selected from a group of 40 engineers for his level of experience. He's been on board three ships for missile testing and completed 15 missile test flights in his career.

With Koomia's team standing by, the Lake Erie crew fired Raytheon's single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) hitting the satellite approximately 153 miles over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. Sergeant Koomia did, in fact, confirm the "kill."

"Sergeant Koomia's success with the project reflects a great service to the nation, and it further illustrates the high level of experience and expertise among our people in the Guard," said Brig. Gen. Rick Moisio, 162nd Fighter Wing commander. "We have a rocket scientist in our weapons shop. Does it get any better than that?"