36 MUNS puts the brakes on corrosion

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Breanna Christopher Volkmar
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

Five years is the service life of a munitions trailer at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Due to the intensity of the islands natural elements, equipment containing metal tends to corrode at a faster rate, limiting the service life substantially compared to the equipment’s intended lifespan.

The munitions support equipment maintenance team assigned to the 36th Munitions Squadron has thought of a new way to limit the rate of corrosion and double the service life of their trailers by switching from stainless steel to copper nickel alloy brake lines. These trailers are essential for transporting munitions and related equipment to and from the flight line in support of training, exercises or real world activities.

“As a member of the noncommissioned officer corps at my work center we had been brainstorming ideas on how to limit brake system failure due to the corrosion,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Merkley, support section lead of munitions support equipment maintenance assigned to 36 MUNS.

Although stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion and rust, the environment proves to be a challenge resulting in a five-year service life for the munitions trailers. The corrosion causes leaks and brake line ruptures resulting in complete failure of the hydraulic brake system, rendering the trailer unserviceable. The copper nickel alloy is significantly more resistant to the effects of corrosion especially in marine salt-water environments.

“Copper does not tarnish or corrode nearly as fast as stainless steel and in theory will last considerably longer,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Brown, production supervisor of munitions support equipment maintenance assigned to 36 MUNS. “However, because copper by itself is a weak metal, it gets infused with nickel to strengthen the metal while still providing the corrosion resistance that we need.”

The team will be replacing the brake lines on only six of their trailers, putting the new lines to the test against Guam’s elements.

“If the trial run of six trailers proves successful, it opens another avenue that all MUNS could use to keep our munitions material handling equipment fleets serviceable,” said Merkley.

The process of obtaining the new material has proved to be more efficient and cost effective for the munitions support equipment maintenance team. The only drawback is they must cut, bend and flare the copper nickel alloy lines, adding another hour of labor per trailer.

It will take roughly five years of normal wear and tear to know if the copper nickel lines will truly withstand the elements of Guam better than the stainless steel lines.

“Even if we don’t see an increase in service life, the time and money we save in materials is worth the investment,” said Merkley.