Ahead of the curve

Senior Airman Wilfredo Nieves inspects the safety wires of the main gun system on a M61A1 20mm gun.

Airman Thomas Trower

Armament shop streamlines weapon inspection
Though maintenance shops throughout the Air Force perform preventative maintenance on their equipment, one Cannon shop has spearheaded the effort to minimize the downtime of operational jets in each aircraft maintenance unit.
The Cannon Armament got a head start on Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (Smart Ops 21) eliminating three aircraft down days worth of maintenance on the M61A1 20mm gun through the Golden Gun initiative, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Craig, 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.
Before 2004, this weapon was removed every 18 months, or whenever a malfunction occurred, for the shop crew to perform required maintenance. The crew would spend three to four days taking apart and reassembling the 3,000 parts of the weapon, while the aircraft would unusable until the weapon was replaced, said Sergeant Craig.
When the weapons are disassembled, maintainers are looking for any signs of damage. The guns are also given a thorough cleaning.
“When they come in, they are completely black,” said Senior Airman Wilfredo Nieves, 27th EMS. “We have to clean off all of the carbon and rust.”
Now, the weapons are swapped out with operational guns on the spot.
This instantaneous swap of weapons allows the jet’s gun system to become fully operational immediately, said Sergeant Craig.
The swaps became possible when three additional guns were acquired after Cannon received approval from Air Combat Command to purchase them at $130,000 each, one weapon per aircraft maintenance unit, and store them in the Armament Gun Vault, said Sergeant Craig.
And while other ACC bases have begun to follow Cannon’s program and acquire spare weapons, Sergeant Craig said, Cannon was the first to have a spare for each unit.