355th CMS: pods, pods, pods

The 355th Component Maintenance Squadron’s Avionics Flight at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., is the home of the Air Forces’ largest Centralized Repair Facility for AN/ALQ-188 electronic warfare pods and AN/ALQ-131 electronic attack pods.

These pods are used to accelerate pilot training across 33 bases throughout the United States and Europe, and used to defend the A-10 Thunderbolt II in its role as the world’s premier close-air support attack aircraft.

After Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in 2018, Davis Monthan AFB was selected as the new home of the AN/ALQ-188 CRF, quadrupling the workload of the small maintenance section.

“Tyndall used to be the main repair center for these systems, but when the hurricane took them out, they had to relocate here,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshall Nguyen, 355th CMS electronic warfare technician. “The hurricane also damaged a lot of the equipment and storage containers. Our shop’s small number of individuals were hard pressed to expedite the repair process to support the mission across two major commands.”

With little support, equipment and no additional manning, the avionics team went about the task of repairing the fleet of Electronic Counter-Measure pods and by February of 2021 the flight had eliminated the maintenance backlog and achieved a fleet-wide, 100 percent fully mission capable rate.

“These pods are cutting-edge electronic warfare and they need a good team when it comes to repairing them and upkeeping maintenance,” said Senior Airman Hunter Moses, 355th CMS electronic warfare technician. “These pods are vital to the mission because they help train ground and air crews for hostile electronic warfare environments.”

Most of the avionics Airmen are dual qualified to maintain both systems, which has given them flexibility to quickly handle surges in maintenance caused by delays in worldwide shipping and the ever-demanding needs of home station units for training.

“We are the only shop here in the continental United States that can service these pods, so we’re basically the central hub for repairs,” said Moses. “We get pods shipped here weekly from bases all over the world, service them and then ship them back to those bases.”

In June of 2022, the AN/ALQ-188 maintenance facility renovation was completed, opening up 3,200 square feet of workspace.

“This area used to be pretty run down,” said Nguyen. “Since the renovation, the ergonomic of being in a clean, new facility has definitely had a positive effect on morale. It’s also provided us with the space to be more efficient, so the actual maintenance on one pod usually takes one day and the whole process is four days in total when we receive a pod, repair it, run its required periodic inspection, pack it and ship it back out.”

The 355th CMS avionics team has maintained and repaired thousands of Air Force assets, and continues to uphold the vital training required for pilots and ground crews. Despite being the only repair facility for the U.S. and Europe and despite all the challenges that have been thrown their way, they have never failed to accomplish the mission.

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