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Airmen service F-15E's avionics remotely

by Tech. Sgt. Shad Eidson
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/27/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron's Avionics Flight here apply their technical expertise to sustain mission readiness for F-15E Strike Eagles flying out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

The flight maintains and repairs three dozen various avionics systems for the Strike Eagle, which flies a variety of missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"We are the only F-15 centralized repair facility in theater," said Tech. Sgt. Henry Diogo, flight day shift production supervisor deployed here from the 48th Component Maintenance Squadron out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom.

Avionics systems are a collection of line replaceable units, or LRUs, and include navigation, radar, flight controls, heads-up displays and targeting units. Together the LRUs affect how the F-15E flies and operates its weapon systems.

"Everything in the cockpit is pretty much our domain," said Sergeant Diogo.

Faulty LRUs are identified by avionics' flightline counterparts who send the LRU to base supply requesting an inspection. The LRU is replaced with a serviceable unit so the mission is unaffected, said Sergeant Diogo, who is on his first deployment here. Base supply forwards the faulty LRU to the avionics flight here where technicians inspect it, replace the necessary components and finalize the process with a post inspection. They then give it back to supply where it will remain ready to replace the next faulty unit.

"The constant pressure of having the numbers out and making sure we are producing our units makes this a high-stress environment," Sergeant Diogo said.

"When sending back an LRU, I think, 'Is it the best that it can be? Has it been produced in a quality manner?'" Sergeant Diogo said. "If something happens out there, it could be life or death. A misalignment could result in a bomb landing here instead of over there."

The critical nature of avionics is one reason why every LRU passing through the flight has technical orders, or TOs, on how to perform the various diagnostics as well as the standards for passing an inspection.

"(My team) is a bunch of hard working guys. They get in and go right to it," said Sergeant Diogo.

The flight's technicians have varying levels of experience that Sergeant Diogo is continually increasing through challenges.

"Sergeant Diogo presents challenges on a day-to-day basis that allow us to hit the TOs, get in the book and learn more stuff about our job and sharpens our skills," said Senior Airman Joshua Simmons, who is also deployed from RAF Lakenheath. After giving a challenge, Sergeant Diogo then allows the section to handle it themselves.

"Our flight chief calls it trust but verify. 'I trust you to do it and then six hours later I'll verify,'" said Airman Simmons, radar team leader. "When he asks me questions, I have to explain to him what I did, how I did it, write down the order of operations I used to reach a certain result."

The LRUs can be dangerous to handle, said Airman Simmons, who works on the APG-70 radar system. If the equipment is connected wrong, the radiofrequencies can cook a person. During inspections, 10,000 volts can be going through the equipment.

"Every aspect of it, the preinspection, bench check, maintenance, and post inspection, everything has its different challenges," said Airman Simmons.

Everyone in the flight takes an interest in continually looking to improve how the flight does business, said Airman Simmons. When someone comes across a process in the TOs that raises the question 'why is it done this way?' the process is evaluated. The search for efficiency has helped the flight to produce more than 750 LRUs in the past year. The complete repair process from receipt, inspection and repair takes a few hours on average. The estimated savings to the Air Force through repair are $33.7 million versus the cost of a new LRU.

The radar's transmitter is the only system, which the flight cannot repair here and must be sent to RAF Lakenheath.

"The avionics systems let the F-15E do what it does best," said Airman Simmons, who feels that what they do affects theater operations.

Currently F-15Es provide overwatch for coalition forces in Afghanistan. The 379th EMXS Aviation Flight's strict adherence to TOs helps ensure the Strike Eagle's success in theater, contributing to missions such as the one on Feb. 15, when an F-15E suppressed enemy fire to help a coalition convoy disengage from an improvised explosive device-initiated ambush. The convoy was able to break away from the engagement and return to base safely.


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