DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
When close air support is called to battle, there is no margin for the A-10C Thunderbolt II weapon systems to fail.
The 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadrons armament flight is responsible for loading ammunition and disassembling weapon systems for inspection and cleaning.
“Our jobs as weapons personnel means we cover everything weapon related including working on the gun system, bomb systems and loading the jet with live ammunition,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Fuller, 355th EMS gun section supervisor.
In order for the A-10’s mission to run smoothly, all systems have to be fully functional and ready for action. The GAU-8/A has scheduled cleaning and inspections based on time and use. Weapons Airmen start by removing panels from the A-10’s nose to the underbelly, completely exposing the gun and its components.
“The 30 mm gun system consists of three components, the Gatling gun itself, the hydraulic drive motor and the drum which holds up to 1,500 rounds of ammunition,” Fuller said.
Once all bolts are loosened and certain parts are taken off, the gun is ready to be removed and taken to the armament flight for inspection and cleaning.
“We inspect it after every 25,000 rounds fired or 36 months,” said Master Sgt. Jerrime Williams 355th EMS armament flight NCOIC. “The system comes in, we do a clean, lube it, and change out certain parts.”
The armament flight breaks down the system to its smallest components and washes off the grease and lube, which leaves behind a silver skeleton of a gun. Before reassembly, fresh grease gears and other moving parts to ensure friction is minimal. Then a final inspection is performed.
“We go over every part to ensure there [are] no cracks, rust, or wear and tear,” Williams said.
Functionality inspections are meticulous processes. One small oversight can lead to weapon failure or worse.
“If an inspection isn’t performed correctly, it could put not only our pilots, but our sister services and ground troops in danger,” Williams said.
As soon as the final inspections are complete, the gun is returned to its rightful place and the A-10 is ready for its next mission, whether it is in training or combat.
“The A-10 is mainly [used for] ground support which means it is used when our troops are getting shot at,” Fuller said. “When I fully load a jet with bombs and ammo and it comes back with nothing, I feel proud, because I know that what I did was directly involved with saving lives."