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Armament flight: Enhances falcon lethality

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament flight perform inspections on numerous M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon parts at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament flight perform inspections on numerous M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon parts at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. The inspections occur every 18 months and take approximately 31 hours to complete. These inspections help the 20th Fighter Wing in completing its suppression of enemy air defenses mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Homer Resendez, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance supervisor, assembles an M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary gun loader at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Homer Resendez, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance supervisor, assembles an M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary gun loader at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. Airmen assigned to the flight use equipment such as hammers to seal lead into the cannon to prevent tracks from loosening while firing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Keanu Alderson, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance journeyman, performs an inspection on a M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon transfer unit shaft at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Keanu Alderson, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance journeyman, performs an inspection on a M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon transfer unit shaft at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. The transfer unit shaft assists in feeding bullets into the Vulcan and extracts the shells after firing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

An Airman assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance flight applies lubricant to an M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon part at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

An Airman assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance flight applies lubricant to an M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon part at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. The lubrication prevents corrosion and allows for smooth operation while the Vulcan is firing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Darius Davis, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance journeyman, places safety wire on a M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon rotor at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Darius Davis, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance journeyman, places safety wire on a M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon rotor at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. The safety wire prevents bolts from loosening while firing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman J.T. Owen, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance team member, assembles a M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon access unit at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman J.T. Owen, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance team member, assembles a M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon access unit at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. The unit provides the 20th Fighter Wing’s F-16CM Fighting Falcon weapon interface with a means to accept the munition and allows for a smooth installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

A U.S. Airman assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance flight carries an inspected M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon ammunition drum at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018.

A U.S. Airman assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament maintenance flight carries an inspected M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon ammunition drum at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Aug. 2, 2018. The drum is the mechanism that allows the Vulcan to hold approximately 400 rounds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Ensuring that pilots and aircraft are ready to answer the call, a group of 54 Airmen work to inspect the machinery needed to drop targets downrange. Out of this group, a team of five Airmen scattered in three different shifts have an inside look on the machinery coming into the work center.

These Airmen, assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament systems flight’s gun work center, ensure the lethal, high-velocity M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannons are suitable for installation into F-16s.

The group performs the necessary inspections on 81 gun systems, valued at $5.7 million.

These Airmen ensure the cannon will function flawlessly when it is time to fire by performing tasks such as disassembling transfer unit shafts and hammering lead seals into parts which prevent the weapon from loosening or falling apart while firing.

“Our gun systems are put through thousands of rounds a year, so it is critical every component inside is verified for proper function of the system,” said Tech. Sgt. Gilberto Garza, 20th EMS armament maintenance floor chief. “The M61A1 can expend up to 6,000 rounds per minute. If a single piece were to fail, it could cause detrimental damage to the aircraft or the life of our pilot.”

The inspections are performed every 18 months and take approximately 31 hours from start to finish. Armament flight Airmen work 24-hour operations over three shifts to ensure all pieces of machinery entering the facility are inspected and safe for installation.

Ensuring the gun system is safe for installation will make an impact on the pilots when they are ready to deploy and accomplish the mission.

“The Shaw Weasels provide the suppression of enemy air defenses mission for all branches of service in order to accomplish the mission set of our combatant commanders,” said Master Sgt. John Robertson, 20th EMS armament section chief. “The armament flight takes pride in maintaining the equipment used to put missiles on missions and bullets on bad guys. Our equipment is used by the F-16 platform to secure airspace and clear the way for our sister services in combat.”

With the support of the armament team, service members across the Department of Defense receive world-class air security provided by the F-16.