U.S., S. Korean air forces train to work on each other’s aircraft

South Korean Air Force jet mechanics get a close-up look at a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The airmen were taking part in a cross-servicing program the U.S. and South Korean air forces run in which mechanics of each force are instructed in how to service aircraft of the other.


By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 14, 2004

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — If a U.S. combat pilot over South Korea needed more gas or bombs in wartime, Osan and Kunsan air bases would be reliable stops.

But what if that pilot had to put down at one of the many South Korean air bases on the peninsula? And what if he was flying an A-10 attack plane, an aircraft not even in the inventory of the South Korean air force, known as the ROKAF?

Thanks to a cross-servicing program between the two air forces, the ROKAF has airmen it can call on to service U.S. aircraft, even the A-10. And the Americans have airmen who can do the same for the F-4 and F-5 fighters flown by the ROKAF.

Called Combat Cross-Servicing Certification, the program brings South Korean aircraft mechanics to Osan Air Base several times a year for instruction in the basics of A-10 maintenance. And it brings U.S. airmen to ROKAF bases to learn the basics of servicing the F-4s and F-5s.

The first ROKAF group to visit Osan this year wrapped up its three-day session Friday, said 1st Lt. Park Hyung-joo.

The group consisted of four F-16 crew chiefs — an aircraft used by both air forces — and two F-5 crew chiefs, sent from ROKAF bases at Jungwon, Sosan, and Kwangju.

ROKAF sends six airmen at a time to Osan, four times a year, Park said. This year, the ROKAF expects to have about 40 U.S. airmen come to its bases.

“The purpose of Combat Cross-Servicing is, in wartime, a lot of combat aircraft will be deployed to this peninsula,” said Park, with ROKAF’s operations command, “so we have to be prepared to support all kinds of aircraft.”

At Osan, the 24 hours of A-10 instruction teaches the ROKAF airmen how to run a safety check on the aircraft, and how to fuel it, ready it for takeoff and get it parked once it’s back on the ground, among other topics.

“We go through the basic information of the airplane,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Buckles, an A-10 maintenance instructor with Osan’s 51st Maintenance Operations Squadron.

Safety matters are a big part of the first day, Buckles said, and the ROKAF airmen are alerted to the dangers posed by intake and exhaust systems, engine noise, and moving parts such as elevators and ailerons.

“We show them the danger areas, actually show them — where to stand, where not to stand, what to touch, what not to touch,” Buckles said. “When the aileron moves around, you don’t want to stand in the wrong place, ’cause you get hit in the head, and you lose.”

The first two days also bring them to the flight line, where they spend time with an actual A-10.

“We go out to the jet and we go over the same information,” Buckles said, “give them a hands-on. We ... run the jet on auxiliary power and then they go through it with the jet as if it was actually launching. Then they can get used to the noise, the flight controls, how they move, how they operate.

“It’s one thing to tell them ‘it goes up and down,’ but it’s another thing for them to see it, see how it’s actually gonna react. If they want more information or practice, we do it, we keep on it.”

Launch procedures — getting the A-10 ready for takeoff — get a special emphasis, Buckles said. “We run through the launch procedures probably about four or five times. Each ROK guy will get about 30 minutes, one-on-one.”

And on the third day, the ROKAF airmen are paired up with U.S. Air Force crew chiefs to watch actual launches, Buckles said.

The program equips airmen to provide two types of service: Stage A is a “gas-and-go” in which an aircraft lands, gets gas and other basic maintenance, then takes off. Stage B gives it “gas and bombs” before it takes off, said 1st Lt. Beth Cherney, commander of the 51st Maintenance Squadron’s Programs and Resources Flight.

ROKAF Staff Sgt. Lee Young-min found the A-10 instruction clear, interesting and easy to follow. “The A-10 course is so systematic,” Lee said, “step-by-step, to understand the system. The instructor knew what is the best way to input the knowledge.”

“The program exists — obviously Korea is in an armistice — but ... to enable both U.S. and ROK aircraft in the event of an emergency or a contingency, to be serviced by either,” said Cherney. “So we’re not limited in a contingency.

“We actually have that capability to load munitions on Republic of Korea aircraft and they have the ability to load munitions on our aircraft as well.”

South Korean Air Force jet mechanics get a hands-on look at a U.S. Air Force A-10 attack plane at Osan Air Base, South Korea Friday. The airmen were part of a cross-servicing program in which some mechanics from each air force get instruction in how to crew the other's aircraft. The purpose of the program is to enable both forces to support each other in time of war or other crisis.

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