Osan airmen practice bomb prep during Foal Eagle
Stars and Stripes March 22, 2008
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Arming fighter planes with bombs during wartime is no off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all proposition.
Munitions airmen with the right tools and training must prepare munitions to order, assembly-line fashion, at what can be a relentless, keep ’em coming pace.
Airmen of the 51st Munitions Squadron at Osan have been honing those skills this week as part of the annual Foal Eagle exercise. The squadron is part of Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing.
“It’s meant to be an assembly line,” Capt. Andrea Wild, the squadron’s maintenance operations officer, said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of different components that are stored in various areas that we have to pull into one area to assemble these munitions.”
The airmen must get the right number and type of bombs, rockets and missiles out of storage and into various assembly points, where they’ll be fitted with components that make them ready for combat use.
The process involves trailers, forklifts, automatic hoists, ratchets and other equipment.
With the clock ticking, the airmen rush the munitions to the flight line for loading on the warplanes being readied for launch.
“It’s hectic,” said Senior Airman Richard Capuano, 23, of Danvers, Mass.
He’s worked at the bomb assembly job in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Southwest Asia in support of real-world combat missions.
“When stuff kicks off … you’re working nonstop,” he said. “Working 12-hour shifts or more. You’re not stopping. It’s go, go, go, go.”
The wing flies two types of fighter jets from Osan: the F-16 fighters of its 36th Fighter Squadron and the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes of its 25th Fighter Squadron.
“Our pace is driven by the flight line and ultimately by the missions that the pilots are flying,” Wild said.
The assemblers try to make sure every jet gets its needed munitions load, a process the airmen call “meeting the frag.”
“If we fail to meet our frag, that’s one, two, maybe three jets that are not going to be able to go up in the air and put bombs on target,” Capuano said.
Getting each adjustment right is key, said Capuano, but perhaps most crucial are the fuses.
“If you’re messing up on the fusing, you’re not dropping a bomb anymore,” he said. “It’s like you’re dropping a big rock.”
So Capuano tells airmen newly out of training to keep focused on their piece of the process.
“I just need them focused on one thing at a time. If someone’s turning a ratchet, putting on a fin, someone needs to be doing that. That’s your job.”