Arming the air war

By U.S. Air Force Capt. Sybil Taunton | 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs | Aug. 11, 2016

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and the 20-nation air coalition working diligently to rid the Middle East, Central Asia and Northern Africa of extremist violence, the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing has employed over 2,000 weapons since the beginning of 2016.

A flight of roughly 100 munitions experts assigned to three sections, across nine work centers, ensure each and every weapon is built to effectively achieve desired effects while minimizing collateral damage to surrounding populations.

“At any given time we have over 300 bombs built and ready for delivery as required,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan, of the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. “We assemble, maintain, and stock 13 primary variations. However, we are able to add an additional 27 variants to our arsenal as the mission dictates in a moment’s notice.”

The Precision Guided Munition team maintains four types of air-to-air missiles and two types of small diameter bombs, according to Master Sgt. Troy, also of the 380th EMXS. Jonathan added that the Munitions Flight is also responsible for chaff and flare as well as 20 millimeter cannons that are used for countermeasure operations, serving a variety of functions.

“First, they are primarily used against enemy missiles, whether radar or infrared,” said Jonathan. “The secondary usage can be as a show of force, warning either non-combatants of an impending strike, or scaring enemy fighters away from an area to either eliminate collateral damage or give ground forces an advantage when other munitions are not feasible.”

Master Sgt. Patrick, of the 380th EMXS, explained the importance of identifying which munition should be used for each target identified. Some targets are hardened structures or hidden underground, which require penetration capabilities, he said.

 “Other targets may be positioned near a populated area where precision and low collateral weapons effects are desired to reduce the chance of collateral damage,” said Patrick. “The days of carpet bombing areas with a single type of munition are long past. Today’s Air Force relies on the expertise of munitions and weapons experts to select and build the correct weapons for each individual target.”

The Munitions Flight built over 450 bombs in a single month to support increased strike operations taking place throughout the Air Force Central Command area of responsibility, according to Patrick. For precision guided munitions specifically, Troy said the Flight uploads an average of 48 small diameter bombs a week.

“It is honor to know that our team is part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Staff Sgt. Jordan, of the 380th EMXS. “I am proud to know that all of our training, hard work and sacrifice is being applied toward such a vital service in restoring peace and stability to those in need.”

(Due to safety and security concerns, some last names were removed).