Andersen Air Force Base, Guam --
The 36th Civil Engineer Squadron replaced two Barrier Arresting Kits on the flight line at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, April 26, 2021. The BAK-12 is an Aircraft Arresting System that acts as a mechanical barrier capable of rapidly decelerating a landing aircraft. The BAK-12 feeds a cable across the flight line to catch jets and is capable of withstanding 180 knots of force, or 207 miles per hour.
“The purpose of the BAK-12 is to save the pilots life in the case of an emergency,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Tindley, 36th CES power production shop NCO in charge of barrier maintenance. “If their brakes were out, or if there was some sort of damage that prevented them from stopping on the runway, we have our aircraft arresting systems that can come in and take the cable to save the pilot and the equipment.”
With lives on the line, preventative maintenance is critical for these systems. However, a BAK-12 replacement doesn’t happen very often. In fact, depending on which base they’re assigned to or when the aircraft arresting system was last replaced, many CES Airmen can go their entire careers without getting the opportunity to be a part of one.
“We are replacing the arresting system because in our technical orders there is a service life before it has to get overhauled,” Tindley said. “Just like on a vehicle, after so many miles the engine needs to get overhauled. It’s the same with these, but the requirement on the aircraft arresting system is once every ten years.”
Without the BAK-12, Andersen would not be able to host U.S. or foreign allied fighter jets. This capability makes it possible for Andersen AFB to further operationalize the base, project airpower, expand combat capability, and strengthen partnerships from the forward edge of the Indo-Pacific.
“It provides air superiority, deterrence, and freedom of movement, whether it’s refueling or whether it’s airlift,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Smith, 36th CES facility systems superintendent. “Also, what I find most important is that combat sortie generation piece. You can’t have fighters without aircraft arresting systems.
“We have four permanently installed BAK-12s; two on each runway. We also have a Mobile Aircraft Arresting System that we use on Northwest Field,” Smith continued. “The MAAS is the BAK-12 system, but on a mobile trailer. During Cope North, our arresting system enabled the first fifth-generation fighter ops and the first fighter sorties from an austere location in about 76 years. There were a lot of firsts out of Cope North and a lot of those things wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for an Aircraft Arresting System capability put in place.”
The BAK-12 is not limited to only fighters, but anything that is tail hook equipped. There are certain times of the year that aircraft activate the barrier more frequently than others.
“Whenever we have exercises, because of the increased fighter jet traffic at the installation, there’s an increase chance for a jet to declare an in-flight emergency,” Smith said. “That’s where we come in and we save the day. For Cope North 21, we caught an E-2 Hawkeye, F-15 Eagle and F-18 Hornet. We can catch anything. It doesn’t have to be an Air Force aircraft or a U.S. jet. It could be a multi-national partner; it could be a joint asset; really anything with a tail hook, we can catch.”
This BAK-12 replacement was Tindley’s third career replacement and his first time being a part of the planning process. He said it was a giant learning experience and that he was confident and hopeful that everything would go as planned.
“So far, everywhere I’ve been there have been in-flight emergencies that have called for barrier activation,” Tindley said. “These emergencies do happen, so it’s nice to have the safety net available in case and when they do. We’re saving the lives of countless pilots and millions of dollars of equipment.”