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Avionics: the nervous system of the BUFF

Staff Sgt. Michael Plummer, 2nd Maintenance Squadron communication and navigation mission systems shift supervisor, shows Airman 1st Class Christopher Shelby, 2 MXS COMNAV journeyman, a corroded interphone wire inside a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 25. Aircrews use the interphones to communicate with each other in the aircraft. Every 450 hours, avionics Airmen inspect the B-52 to ensure its avionics systems are working and free of corrosion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Staff Sgt. Michael Plummer, 2nd Maintenance Squadron communication and navigation mission systems shift supervisor, shows Airman 1st Class Christopher Shelby, 2 MXS COMNAV journeyman, a corroded interphone wire inside a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 25. Aircrews use the interphones to communicate with each other in the aircraft. Every 450 hours, avionics Airmen inspect the B-52 to ensure its avionics systems are working and free of corrosion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Staff Sgt. Michael Plummer, 2nd Maintenance Squadron communication and navigation mission systems shift supervisor, checks knobs and switches in the flight deck of a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 25. Every 450 hours, avionics Airmen inspect the B-52 to ensure its avionics systems are working and free of corrosion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Staff Sgt. Michael Plummer, 2nd Maintenance Squadron communication and navigation mission systems shift supervisor, checks knobs and switches in the flight deck of a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 25. Every 450 hours, avionics Airmen inspect the B-52 to ensure its avionics systems are working and free of corrosion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Due to advances in technology, some aircraft in the U.S. inventory can trouble shoot their own avionics systems; however, for the B-52H Stratofortress, the aircraft's systems must be monitored and manually maintained frequently.

Avionics Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Group are the guardians who monitor the B-52's avionics systems. These Airmen specialize in three main categories: communication and navigation mission systems, instrument and flight control systems and electronic warfare systems.

"COMNAV Airmen work on radios, radars, interphones and offensive avionics systems," said Master Sgt. Eric Sears, 2nd Maintenance Group wing avionics manager. "IFCS Airmen work flight control, auto pilot, fuel control and fuel management systems and our EWS Airmen work on defensive systems, flares and chaff."

According to Sears, to accomplish the task of monitoring and repairing all of the 2nd Bomb Wing's B-52's, approximately 150 avionics Airmen are split up to work on the flightline and in back shops.

"Flightline Airmen work the day-to-day operations of the aircraft and the red-ball actions that are required for the aircraft to take-off," he said. "They also work the landing write-ups and pilot reported discrepancies."

A red-ball is when an aircraft scheduled to depart has a high priority maintenance issue that must be fixed before the aircraft can take off. To limit the amount of red-ball actions, Avionics Airmen in the Phase back shop at inspect the systems after 450 flying hours.

"Our phase Airmen inspect everything down to the connector plug to make sure everything is clean and free of corrosion," said Sears. "If a component has corrosion on it, they clean it up. After the initial inspection they write down and fix the noted discrepancies."

According to Sears, avionics systems on the B-52 are vital tools used to help aircrew accomplish the mission by monitoring speed, altitude, munitions, fuel consumption, engine temperatures and oil pressure to get the B-52 to its target.

"Without the avionics systems we couldn't do our mission," said Capt. Robert Jeffrey, 96th Bomb Squadron aircraft commander. "The defensive systems keep us safe, and if we didn't have offensive systems we wouldn't be a bomber. It's extremely vital to our mission of putting weapons on target on time."
According to Jeffrey, avionics Airmen do a good job of keeping the systems ready for a war-time environment which is no easy task due to the B-52's time in service.

"Due to the age of the B-52, it's a constant cycle, the systems need continuous maintenance and monitoring but our Airmen are great," said Sears. "I couldn't ask for better technicians."