EMS works behind the scenes to get aircraft from the shop to the sky

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Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Leala Maquez

Munition airmen with the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron load GBU-12 Paveway II’s onto a bomb pad at Luke Air Force, Ariz., Jan. 15, 2019. Munition Airmen are responsible for building and delivering munition.

The roar of fighter jets zooming by is a familiar sound on Luke. They fill the sky with spectacles of weaving, winding and intricate maneuvers.

This breathtaking display can make it easy to forget about all the Airmen and hours that went into the aircraft maintenance which enabled it to fly.

There are many squadrons that perform countless hours of work in the background to make sure that Luke’s aircraft are performing to their optimal capacity. One such group is the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

“There’s no air power without ground power,” said Tech Sgt. Austin Blackwell, 61st Aerospace Ground Equipment supervisor. “We provide that ground power.”

EMS is comprised of several flights, which include: AGE, Munition, Armament, Fabrication and Maintenance. Each flight plays a special role in either arming the aircraft, maintaining the equipment used on it or repairing the airframe.

“We’re behind the scenes doing a lot of work to help aircraft get into the air,” said Tech. Sgt. Eugene Lofton, 61st AGE noncommissioned officer in charge.

Airman 1st Class Taylor Frost, a 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight metals technology apprentice, welds at Luke Air Force, Ariz., Jan. 15, 2019. Fabrication flight is responsible for the maintenance of airframe structures and the equipment used to facilitate upkeep on the aircraft.

AGE is responsible for repairing and maintaining equipment on the flightline.

“Anything that’s on the flightline, besides the jets and the aircraft, we fix,” Blackwell said. “That’s the air conditioners, heaters, hydraulics, nitrogen – we have to be a jack of all trades.”

Also in EMS is the Maintenance flight.

“Maintenance’s primary function is nose to tail inspections,” Lofton said. “They’re charged with the inspection of the aircraft and the building up and tearing down all of the wheel sets.”

EMS also includes the Fabrication flight which insures the structural maintenance of airframes and the upkeep of equipment used to facilitate maintenance on the aircraft.

Fabrication is composed of several specialties that oversee the structural integrity of aircraft. These shops include Aircraft Sheet Metal, Metals Technology, Low Observables and Non-destructive Inspections, said Lofton.

These shops collaborate and intertwine their specialized training to complete mission essential tasks.

“If there is a crack on the aircraft, a sheet metal technician will put a patch on it and a metals tech will come in and weld it,” said Lofton.

While some EMS flights maintain and repair, Munitions builds the ammo.

Staff Sgt. Willie Moore, a 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron phase team member, inspects the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force, Ariz., Jan. 15, 2019. Moore was performing an inspection on the engine’s first stage blades.

“[Munition] is responsible for building the munitions and delivering it to the aircraft,” Lofton said. “They place the fins on the bombs, tighten down the bolts, put in the fuse, put the tip of the bomb on and send it down the line.”

After the munitions are built EMS Armament flight takes over with the responsibility to load them onto the fighter jets.

Armament is composed of two areas, the back shop and flightline personnel. The back shop does the inspection on the weapons systems to make sure that everything is capable of functioning correctly so that when flightline personnel load the munitions onto the aircraft, everything runs smoothly.

The five flights that comprise EMS each perform a special role while sharing a common goal. There are many components and personnel that are essential to flight training and without the squadrons that work behind the scenes it would not be possible.

“We’re a big melting pot of mechanics working together to do different jobs for the same mission and that’s to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots,” said Lofton.