U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Chrisjian Yang, a 35th Maintenance Squadron electronic warfare journeyman, inspects a heat exchanger fin for foreign object debris at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 20, 2019. The ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pod increases reception range, reduces countermeasure response time and improves reliability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Xiomara M. Martinez)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Chrisjian Yang, a 35th Maintenance Squadron electronic warfare journeyman, inspects a heat exchanger fin for foreign object debris at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 20, 2019. The ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pod increases reception range, reduces countermeasure response time and improves reliability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Xiomara M. Martinez)

Misawa maintainers innovate new parts for targeting pods, reachieve 98% mission standard rate

by Airman 1st Class Xiomara M. Martinez
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pod is crucial in a pilot's decision-making loop; they send alerts to a pilot’s display which allows the pilots to choose different ways the pod can react to signals. For F-16 pilots assigned to the 35th Fighter Wing, they use this targeting pod to intercept radar signals from aircraft and missile sites as part of their suppression of enemy air defenses mission increasing reception range, reducing countermeasure response time and improving reliability.

So, when the availability of F-16 Fighting Falcon targeting pods dropped 10% below the 86% mission standard rate last year, the 35th Maintenance Squadron avionics flight decided they needed to do something drastic.

With an unusually high number of pods breaking and an unavailability of parts, the avionics flight had a lot of catching up to do, so pulled together as a team and developed a plan to overcome their predicament.

Airman 1st Class Carlos Sacarello Rivera, a 35th MXS electronic warfare team member, explained that the low supply required thinking about the problem in a different light.

“The lack of resources was a challenge,” said Sacarello Rivera. “With how rare the parts for these pods are, we hand-made the parts from in-shop supplies. The pod construction challenged the group to think above and beyond on a broader spectrum. The thought process required ingenuity--using tools not exactly meant for that certain application--but it worked for the new construction.”

Together, they thought outside-the-box and innovatively generated 137 serviceable pods from Aug. 2018, to March 2019, re-achieving a 98% fully mission-capable rate by fixing two broken status pods awaiting parts.

“The first pod we tackled took a total of one month to rebuild, test, troubleshoot and repair,” explained Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Young, a 35th MXS electronic warfare systems production supervisor. “The flight challenged themselves to knock out the second pod in half the time of the first one.”

Not only did Airmen overcome challenges along the way but they also exceeded leadership's expectations.

“As a team, we are very proud of our achievement because the broken pods were down for more than two years,” Young said. “The guys definitely put in all the work and achieved the task, I’m super proud I was there for it.”

Capt. Brian Nagel, the 35th MXS operations officer, said his team understands their importance to pilot survivability and the significance of the pod achievement. He believes his avionics Airmen really stepped up to the challenge, innovated with next-to-nothing and protected the wing's pilots with critical aircraft components.

"I am extremely pleased with the work the avionics personnel have accomplished," beamed Nagel. "This now ensures all pilots and aircraft have this counter capability at a moment’s notice."

Thanks to the hard work, long hours and innovative avionics Airmen, Misawa F-16s equipped with the targeting pod remain the first to enter a combat theater to locate surface-to-air missile threats and clear a path for other military forces, ensuring the safety and security of the Indo-Pacific region.

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