Gunning for Success

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Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen

Senior Airman Clay Thomas, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. The panels were removed to perform maintenance on the A-10s GAU-8/A Gatling gun.

The A-10C Thunderbolt II’s arsenal creates a sound that is unforgettable; it puts fear into our enemies and exhilarates our forces.

The weapons troops are responsible for loading ammunition into the GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, loading bombs and disassembling weapons systems for inspection and cleaning.

“I get to see rounds being dispensed, pilots getting trained and enemies being eliminated, this career has great job satisfaction,” said Master Sgt. Jerrime Williams, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament flight NCOIC at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

Without the support of weapons troops the A-10 would just be an expensive single person aircraft and the troops on the ground would be without close air support.

“Our jobs as weapons personnel, means we cover everything weapon related including working on the gun system, bomb systems and loading the jet with live ammunition,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Fuller, 355th EMS gun section supervisor.

In order for the A-10’s missions to run smoothly all systems have to be fully functional and ready for action, this includes the weapons.

Air Force 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew Airmen use a breaker bar to loosen a gun mount bolt on an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. Certain bolts are pressure tightened to guarantee safety of equipment and can take four people to loosen them.

For instance, the GAU-8 has scheduled inspections and cleaning based on time and use. Weapons Airmen start by taking off panels from the A-10’s nose all the way to the underbelly, completely exposing the gun and it’s components.

“The 30mm gun system consists of three components, the Gatling gun itself, the hydraulic drive motor, and the drum which holds up to 1,500 rounds of ammunition,” said Fuller.

Once all bolts are loosened and certain parts are taken off the gun is ready to be removed and taken to the armament flight for inspection and cleaning.

“We inspect it every 25,000 rounds or 36 months,” said Williams. “The system comes in, we do a clean, lube it and change out certain parts.”

Airman 1st Class Michael Sherwood, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures that a GAU-8/A Gatling gun is securely fastened before being transported to maintenance at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. Once the Gatling gun is removed from the A-10C Thunderbolt II, it is transported to the armament shop to be disassembled, cleaned, inspected and reassembled.

The armament flight takes apart it to the smallest components and washes off the grease and lube leaving behind a silver skeleton of a gun. Before reassembly, they apply fresh grease to gears and moving parts to ensure friction is minimal and perform a last inspection.

“We go over every part to ensure there’s no cracks, no rust, no wear and tear,” said Williams.

As soon as the gun is returned to its rightful place, the A-10 is ready for its next mission, whether it is training, exercises or combat.

“The A-10 is mainly [used for] ground support which means it is used when our troops were getting shot at,” Fuller said. “When I fully load a jet with bombs and ammo and it comes back with nothing, I feel proud, because I know what I did was directly involved with saving lives.”
 

Staff Sgt. Joe Myers, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron armament flight supervisor, removes safety wire before dissembling parts of a GAU-8/A Gatling gun at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. Safety wire ensures bolts do not become loose due to vibrations throughout the Gatling gun weapon system.

 

Airman 1st Class Joel Balmforth, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron armament member, removes the mid-barrel support assembly from a GAU-8/A Gatling gun for cleaning and inspection at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. The first in-flight testing of the weapon system took place on Feb. 26, 1974.

 

Airmen from the 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s armament flight, remove the forward rotator from a GAU-8/A Gatling gun for cleaning and inspection at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. The gun shoots 30 mm rounds at a rate of 4,000 rounds per minute with a maximum firing range of 12,000 feet.

 

Airmen from the 924th Maintenance Squadron, team up with members from the 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament flight, to reassemble GAU-8/A Gatling gun components at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 25, 2016. The Airmen work together in the armament shop to guarantee weapon systems are properly cleaned, inspected and reassembled in order to keep up with mission demands.

 

Staff Sgt. Justin Fuller, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron gun section supervisor, greases gears to the drum of a GAU-8/A Gatling gun at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 25, 2016. The new grease safeguards the gears from jamming and damage due to friction.

 

Staff Sgt. Steven Chamberlain, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron gun section supervisor, performs a fixture check on elements before reassembly at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 25, 2016. There are 161 ammunition-carrying elements that if not properly inspected, could cause a failure to fire or damage to the weapon system.

 

Tech. Sgt. David Kucharick, 924th Maintenance Squadron air reserve technician, performs an in-processing inspection on a triple ejector bomb rack to verify its integrity at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 19, 2016. If there is a fault in the rack’s system, it can prevent the bombs from being released or diminish their target accuracy.

 

Staff Sgt. Taijah Jenkins, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron armament flight supervisor, installs a side plate onto a triple ejector bomb rack at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 19, 2016. The bomb rack must be torn down and inspected regularly to ensure functionality in training and real-world conflict environments.

 

Airman 1st Class Elijah Escorcia-Luna, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament section team member, replaces dust caps and clamps on an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 19, 2016. The A-10 is capable of carrying bombs weighing up to 500 pounds and is also equipped with a 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun.

 

Staff Sgt. Brian Smith, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament flight supervisor, works on a triple ejector bomb rack at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 19, 2016. The rack also carries BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance used during practice, which release smoke to verify if they were placed on target.