EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Airmen from Eielson Air Force Base’s 354th Maintenance Squadron munitions flight built the first bombs intended for the 354th Fighter Wing’s F-35A Lighting IIs, June 15-19.
The last time a 354th FW unit dropped combat-specific bombs was about 10 years ago when the A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-16 Fighting Falcons flew in the Alaskan skies.
A bomb build is the intricate process munitions personnel go through to ensure a bomb body is usable for the operators.
"During this process, and depending on the bomb they are building, (munitions personnel) will add a guidance and control unit, tail kit and fuse to a basic bomb body," said Capt. Christina Merritt, a 354th MXS operations officer. "Each of these components work together to make up the type and purpose of the bomb."
Before a single bomb can be built, the munitions flight must coordinate and plan accordingly. The munitions are initially ‘barged’ which is a process of receiving, transporting and storing the explosives. Eielson AFB conducted its largest barge in years back in April.
Once the barge is complete, the munitions Airmen then move onto bomb assembly.
"We’re going to be building a total of 70 bombs over the course of the week," said Master Sgt. Jason P. Brackins, the 354th MXS conventional maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge.
The munitions flight typically builds bombs in mass fashion, especially when they are dealing with the largest shipment Eielson AFB has received in quite some time.
"We typically work to build bombs in a mass fashion," Merritt said. "Mass builds are done using an assembly line process, where each Airman has a particular job and we can produce multiple bombs at once."
Munitions are a key component to ensuring Eielson AFB’s F-35s meet all goals for initial combat capabilities and exercise Red Flag-Alaska participants have ammunition to train. The Airmen who build them are the ones ensuring Eielson AFB’s warfighters are prepared for the future fight.
"We’re the ones that bring the fight to the aircraft and give them that offensive posture," Brackins said. "Without (munitions personnel) it’s just another aircraft flying in the sky."
The junior Airmen in the munitions flight know how impactful the first bomb build is for the F-35s at the at the Eielson AFB-based fighter wing and for Pacific Air Forces.
"It is very rewarding to be a part of making history," said Airman 1st Class Daelyn Mayer, a 354th MXS conventional maintenance inspector. "I think it’s awesome to get to say we built the first bombs for the F-35s that are here at Eielson (AFB)."