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36th EWS conceptualize Reclamation of Electronic Attack Pods Program

  • Published
  • By U.S Air Force Ericka A. Woolever
  • 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing

Late last year the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron traveled to Langley Air Force Base, Va., and met with Air Combat Command to discuss efforts to sustain the service life of Electronic Attack (EA) Pods, increase the availability of parts for essential repairs across the Air Force, and ensure the warfighter has continued electronic warfare (EW) capabilities across multiple areas of responsibility.

Ten Airmen assigned to the 36th EWS used their skills and ingenuity to conceptualize the Reclamation of Electronic Attack Pods (REAP) Program for ALQ-184 and ALQ-131 Electronic Attack (EA) Pods.

The EA Pods are external electronic countermeasure systems used on both the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10C Thunderbolt II platforms. These aircraft rolled off the assembly line nearly 50 years ago, and through upgrades of engines and equipment, these airframes continue to provide combatant commanders with variety of capabilities in contested airspace to deliver the fight to our adversaries.   

The pods use the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) to jam, deny, and deceive enemy radar systems and is used to effectively protect aircraft from radar guided missiles. These systems are instrumental to aircraft survivability in a contested airspace and will become increasingly important for conflicts with a near-peer adversaries.  

The REAP program aims to leverage resources from the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing (350th SWW) and provide the receiving, diagnostic testing, recoupment, and shipment of EA pod equipment back into the supply chain for future use. 

“The goal of the program is to sustain the service life of the ALQ-184 EA Pods by providing reclamation capabilities to ACC,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Bradley D. Sheppard, 36th EWS flight chief. “Both the airframes [F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10C Thunderbolt II] and their crew rely heavily on these legacy systems to provide electronic countermeasure capabilities in theater.”

“This program was not just born out of necessity, it was conceptualized by a team of professionals looking for a way to make a more significant impact on our combat capabilities,” said Sheppard. “Like most great ideas, the concept of the REAP program was truly collaborative.”

The team built the first diagnostic testing regimen from the ground up, explained Sheppard. They have tested 160 components worth $1.6 million over a period of four days. They also developed logistics processes with the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron of a volume that is unprecedented here.

Sheppard explained how the REAP program has the capability to provide over $100 million back into the Air Force Supply System while also ensuring repair facilities across the globe have access to the parts they need to sustain their EA pods.  

“What we are doing here at the 36th EWS is not just innovative, but also the first time that a team like ours has executed a reclamation initiative of this scale for the U.S. Air Force,” said Sheppard. “While that has come with challenges, our team has already taken great strides in developing processes that ensure the mission’s success.”  

Locally, the REAP program also ensures that the 36th EWS has fully mission capable EA pods to use in the development and fielding of mission data.  Now, the Airmen are setting their sights on reviving other critical equipment across the fleet.  

“I envision we can take the processes and lessons learned from this program and apply it to other assets to ensure we can supply much needed parts to our other bases. This will alleviate the parts constraint so that they can keep the mission going,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Zachary Johnston, NCOIC of pod maintenance.