Kunsan maintainers give Wolf Pack jets their bite

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samuel Earick
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon is a complex multi-capable aircraft, but without the 8th Maintenance Squadron F-16s at the Wolf Pack would be all bark and no bite.

8th MXS Airmen are responsible for arming the 80th and 35th Fighter Squardron’s F-16s. They ensure they are armed with one or a combination of the three forms of armaments available: the M-61A1 20 mm multi-barrel cannon, the guided bomb unit-54 and the GBU-31 version 3.

The M-61A1 20 mm multi-barrel cannon is armed with a highly explosive incendiary round that is used against personnel or unarmored buildings otherwise known as soft targets, or a semi-armor piercing round used for hardened shelters and armored vehicles.

“We are constantly turning the machines to get rounds in and out for use and to keep the mission going,” said Senior Airman Weston Harper, 8th MXS conventional maintenance crew chief. “Compared to the slower pace of loading bombs, the 20 mm ammunition is constantly moving and at a rapid pace.”

The other two types of ammunition available to the F-16s at Kunsan AB are the GBU-54 and 31. Airmen are trained on all the available armaments so they can seamlessly provide aircraft with the munitions necessary to meet mission requirements, even with only a moment's notice.

There are multiple differences between the two GBUs. The most noticeable difference between the two guided bombs is their weight, with the GBU-31 being four times heavier than the 54.

There is also a difference in the amount of control pilots have between the two while in flight. The GBU-54 is a 500-lb precision weapon that is laser and global positioning system-guided and used to destroy moving targets.

“Pilots enjoy using this bomb because it comes with more options and flexibility that allow them to adjust bomb settings in the cockpit before deploying the munition,” said Airman Alexis Rizo, 8th MXS conventional maintenance technician.

Both the GBU-31 and 54 are joint direct attack munitions, commonly known as JDAMs, that were created in cooperation with the U.S Navy to convert previous unguided bombs into precision-guided munitions.

The larger of the two bombs, the GBU-31 version 3, is a 2000-lb forged steel penetrator warhead used against targets within hardened structures and bunkers. It penetrates the structure before exploding, maximizing the potential damage to targets.

“Working on the GBU-31 is a challenge that I enjoy,” said Airman First Class Khaliq Gilmore, 8th MXS conventional maintenance crew technician. “Being able to work with my team during these procedures allows us to streamline the process of building and help each other with the more complex areas.”

While these munitions can be used in concert or all by themselves, Harper believes things work out best when you work with others.

“I fully trust my team with my life, and I know they trust me,” said Harper. “We train all the time so we are always ready for when the call comes.”