MXG streamlines initial weapons load process

Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos

Tech. Sgt. Derek Cook, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron lead standardization crew member, grabs tools to load weapons onto an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., July 12, 2018. Using continuous process improvement principles members from the 56th Maintenance Group have implemented changes to speed up the process in which they conduct initial weapons loading training on aircraft.

Members from the 56th Maintenance Group at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., recently implemented changes to speed up initial weapons load training on aircraft.

Master Sgt. David Havel, 56th MXG wing weapons superintendent, is leading the way on the new changes using tools from a Continuous Process Improvement course he is attending.

“The CPI class has been eye opening about time-saving events that could be applied to daily life in weapons standardization,” said Havel. “A few months ago it was highlighted that there were some redundancies within our training, time was wasted and we were not using it to the best of our ability. The programs that I learned in class, we brought here and implemented it to save time.”

The maintainers diligently communicated to prioritize and solve problems within their processes. They reviewed their initial weapons load training procedures and removed unnecessary processes such as functional checks, integrated munition loads and paper technical orders.  

“It’s helped us out a lot here in the weapons community,” said Tech. Sgt. Josh Roberts, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron loading standardization crew chief. “We are the largest weapons community in Air Education and Training Command. Anytime we can save time and make our job more efficient it is going to make our customers, which is everybody out there on the flightline, more efficient.”

Removing unnecessary tasks from initial certification training allows the team to focus on more essential steps to weapons loading. Since doing so, they have seen better passing rates for some qualifications. Around 99 percent of the weapons they’ve loaded onto aircraft have properly fired or dropped without malfunctioning.

Tech. Sgt. Josh Roberts, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron loading standardization crew chief, straps a training bomb onto a bomb lift truck during weapons load training at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., July 12, 2018. Maintainers from the 56th Maintenance Group utilized principles from continuous process improvement to prioritize and solve problems within their processes allowing them to expedite how they train Airmen.

“It’s really benefited the maintainers here in the load barn” Havel said. “Our [aircraft] gun fire rates and bomb drop rates have increased roughly 1.5 percent, which isn’t a huge number, but if you look at our standard of 98 to 99 percent, there’s not a huge margin for error. We’re really knocking those standards out of the park. Our semiannual evaluation rate has gone up by almost 14 percent.” 

Another benefit of this streamlined process is that the weapons teams can get aircraft used for training back out to the flightline in a shorter time period.

“In the past, initial certification was blocked for an entire week, five duty days for both aircraft,” said Havel. “With the processes that we’ve changed, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is now done in four duty days and the F-35 Lightning II is done in three duty days.”

Since February 2018, the weapons teams has saved around 1,080 man-hours in aircraft maintenance training which allows their troops to assists in other maintenance areas.

“We saved a total of 45 days of training, and given back 1,080 hours to the flightline Airmen out there launching jets, loading bombs, and fixing aircraft,” said Havel. “I hope that our young men and women are getting the great skills and knowledge they need to be good at their jobs in a way that translates to the flightline and keeps pilots training in the most efficient pace possible.”