1st SOMXS innovation improves training platform

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andrea Posey
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
To ensure Air Commandos maintain relevant tomorrow, the force and fleet depend on innovation to stay mission ready.

Tech. Sgt. Jake Byers, the section chief of aircraft structural maintenance with the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron, said for the fabrication flight, "Innovation is Aircraft Structural Maintenance."

Aircraft metals technology Airmen specialize in manufacturing parts, tools and equipment with metal components in order to meet the mission requirements of the base.

“Our career field is unlike any other in the maintenance field,” Bryers said. “When something breaks in most maintenance career fields [they] order a new part and install it, [we] do not do that. We either order a new part and modify it, completely make a new part from scratch or repair the damaged part.”

Recently, aircraft metals technology specialists used their expertise to construct a stand to improve the 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron operational checks and training with the Ku Spread Spectrum antenna.

The KuSS Antenna is an airborne broadband satellite communication system installed in all Air Forces Special Operations Command C-130 variants, the U-28A and CV-22 Osprey. This system transmits data, such as full-motion video that is crucial to real time decision making, from pilots to command and control sites where deployed units are operating. It also provides internet and email services to aircrew. The antenna is incased in a dome-like structure that is close to 3 feet high, 25 inches wide and weighs between 50 to 70 pounds.

To conduct operational checks and training, Airmen need access to the underside of the dome which can be difficult without a platform to keep the structure steady.

“This stand is made to cut set-up time, safety issues and risks,” said Staff Sgt. Martin Bradford, Tactical Cyber Systems Supervisor with the 1st SOCS. “[Before] we had to take two, [4 feet by 4 feet] blocks and sit the hatch on its own case to actually perform training and operation checks.”

The idea for the stand came from Staff Sgt. Robert McLendon, an aircraft structural maintenance craftsman with the 1st SOMXS. He designed and created a similar stand during a deployment to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, where high wind conditions created an unsafe environment for maintenance and testing. In the deployed environment, maintainers only option was to prop the antenna on dunnage and boxes to have access to ports.

“To protect the asset during testing, a maintenance stand was designed to simulate the aircraft structure in which it is attached during flight,” McLendon said. “I looked at other test stands used for various aircraft equipment and studied everything from engine test stands to C-130 tire dollies. I came up with a simple design that would have the endurance to last until a permanent stand could be built and distributed by the manufacturer, not knowing that my stand would become the standard.”

After word of how well McLendon’s stand worked, Capt. Jefferson Thorpe, flight commander of tactical communications with the 1st SOCS, commissioned McLendon to build one for operations at Hurlburt.

By collaborating with his wingmen, McLendon and the fabrication flight drew up blue prints and worked for approximately seven days to complete the stand.

“Having a large fabrication shop and a seemingly large supply of metal, [we were] able to build a more permanent design that is able to be distributed fleet wide,” McLendon said.

For the flight’s efforts, the 1st SOCS commander, Lt. Col. Scott McGovern, coined the team in appreciation for their part in improving maintenance operations on KuSS antennas.

“Their time and effort will go a long way, allowing 1st SOCS communicators to train on this mission critical system, ensuring the best possible support to the warfighter,” he said.