Regular bomb resupply vital for carrier ops against Islamic State
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 27, 2016
ABOARD THE USS HARRY S. TRUMAN — Behind every bomb dropped by a carrier’s warplanes on the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, are thousands of sailors and aviation ordnancemen involved in resupplying the ship at sea and assembling the bombs aboard the flattop.
The Harry S. Truman strike group last month surpassed the highest number of ordnance dropped against the militants by any strike group in the campaign that started in August 2014. But in order to keep up that pace of operations, the Truman must receive regular weekly deliveries of 350-550 pallets filled with spare parts, aviation fuel, food for the crew and other provisions.
A complete resupply of munitions is done about every other week.
While the ship is underway, these arrive in pieces, said magazine supervisor Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Malone, an aviation ordnancemen onboard USS Harry S. Truman. It’s the job of the AOs to put the bombs together and get them onto the jets.
There’s a lot that goes into the process of making sure a bomb is ready for use, said Truman’s weapons officer Cmdr. Jim McDonald. Parts have to moved throughout the ship, tested, put together, inspected, and loaded onto the aircraft.
To accomplish all of the tasks required, there are five different divisions with specific roles to prepare munitions for airstrikes, said Malone. “Without each and every part of each division, that weapon is not going to be built.”
During this deployment, the strike group has been using joint direct attack munitions, or JDAMS, also known as smart bombs.
“At the beginning of deployment, it took us maybe 45 minutes to build one 500-pounder,” said Malone. “Right now, with this trained crew, I’d say it takes 8-15 minutes. “If we get an order of 30 500-pounders in a night, that could take us roughly two hours.”
After the JDAMS are put together and their guidance kits are bolted on, they have to go from the magazines to the hangar bay and then to the flight deck. From there they are inspected and placed onto aircraft for their mission.
Ordnance is normally prepared a day in advance, said McDonald. The air plan comes out for the next day explaining what the mission sets are going to be and what needs to be loaded onto the aircraft. Then the weapons department builds to those specifications.
During this deployment, that has meant a lot of building for these AOs.
Malone said his focus has been ensuring his junior personnel, who are the ones actually building the bombs, have been in a good state of mind and doing everything safely and to standards.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment every day that we get off work and we see our bombs go up to the roof [flight deck] and they don’t come back,” said Malone. I think the younger sailors enjoy that a lot. They get a kick out of it.”
An Aviation Ordnanceman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman stands amid ordnance on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. The Truman carrier strike group has been extended in the 5th Fleet area of operations for 30 days to support operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
CHRIS CHURCH/STARS AND STRIPES;