CALCM Airmen targets problems, keeps missiles cruising
By Airman 1st Class Emily A. Bradley, 36th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 11, 2014
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
The B-52 Stratofortress has undergone several developments in how it delivers weapons over the past six decades. One of the major changes is the capability to carry air-to-ground cruise missiles, enabling the bomber to engage targets without having to fly directly over dangerous airspace, putting the bombers and crews in a better position on critical missions.
Not every sortie B-52s crews fly require the AGM-86C Air-Launched Cruise Missile, but when they are necessary, the crews rely on the cruise missiles working on time, every time when it counts the most. The Airmen of the 36th Munitions Squadron's Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile Flight ensure they remain reliable in the eyes of the flight crews when the missiles are needed.
The Andersen CALCM flight increases the effectiveness of the Continues Bomber Presence program.
"The combination of the CALCM weapon system and B-52 delivery system presents a dynamic strategic capability giving decision makers an unmatched reliable option should they so choose to use it," said Col. Kim Brooks, Maintenance Group commander.
The flight, which is made up of 20 Airmen from the missile maintenance Air Force Specialties, is responsible for maintaining Andersen's inventory of AGM-86C missiles. This requires the flight's Airmen to not only store, track and repair them, but also deliver them to their partners in the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron for use during operational and training missions.
The CALCM flight is considered the "back shop," responsible for the care of the missiles, while the EAMXS Airmen are responsible for physically loading them on the B-52s. These skills require constant practice, according to Master Sgt. Robert Laughlin, 36th MUNS CALCM flight chief, and the organizations use concrete missiles known as load trainers to assist the weapons loaders train without causing undue wear and tear, he said.
"These missiles need lots of maintenance when they are handled a lot," Laughlin said. "That is why we opt to use load trainers for the Airmen who practice loading the B-52."
The majority of the CALCM Flight maintains the missiles; however there are additional Airmen who work behind the scenes to keep the CALCM mission going. The support section ensures tools, equipment and vehicles are all accounted for throughout the duty day. The analysis section schedules all maintenance and tracks each missile's location. Each B-52 Stratofortress that takes off from Andersen can carry up to 20 AGM-86 C missiles, six under each wing and eight internally on a rotary launcher. Once fired, these deadly missiles use an onboard GPS coupled with an inertial navigation system to hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy.
The capability, which was first introduced in 1979, is a far cry from previous mission taskings that required B-52s to drop hundreds of unguided "dumb" bombs directly over targets from 40,000 feet, according to Master Sgt. Laughlin. The high-tech munitions are long-range, subsonic 3,000 pound self-guided missiles with a 1,500 mile range.
However, the efforts of the CALCM flight is critical to mission accomplishment, especially in Guam's humid environment that requires the team to constantly control corrosion on the missiles and their associated support equipment, Laughlin said.
Missiles are stored in containers to minimize corrosion since Andersen has such high levels of humidity. To further mitigate the issue, the first part of any scheduled maintenance is for CALCM Airmen to inspect all components for corrosion.
The entire body of the air-to-ground Missile-86 C gets looked over; its electronic components are inspected, the fuel is kept at accurate levels, and if there is a problem, the CALCM Airmen troubleshoot and solve it. Once maintenance is complete, Airmen load the missile, which weighs as much as a car, back into its container and report the munition as mission ready.
"Our CALCM professionals know the importance of the weapon system they work on, and it shows in the day to day pride and enthusiasm they have," Brooks said.