Eyes in the sky

By Staff Sgt. Chad Warren 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Of all the intricate systems at work on a B-52H Stratofortress, perhaps none is as widely relied on and used as the avionics system.

Multiple capabilities of the aircraft rely on the sensitive equipment that makes up the avionics system, and Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron Avionics Flight ensure this equipment is prepared to carry out any mission the B-52 is called to perform.

"Avionics systems as a whole are essential to the aircraft," said Senior Airman David Hammett, 2 MXS Avionics Flight communications navigation journeyman. "It ties in everything needed to perform the total mission of the B-52."

Within the avionics flight, Airmen work in one of two sections: Communications and navigation or electronic countermeasures.

Hammett, who works with the comm/nav equipment, explained that his section is responsible for the hardware that gives the aircraft communication and radar navigation capabilities. The main pieces of equipment Hammett deals with are the strategic radar receiver transmitter modulator and the antenna, which together give the aircraft the majority of its operational capabilities.

"If any communication systems were lost, the aircraft might not be able to communicate with other aircraft, tower or troops in a wartime operation. If any navigation systems went out, the aircraft might not be able to navigate properly, making it hard for the aircraft to link up with refueling aircraft, and our birds might not be able to make it back home." said Hammett. "If the offensive avionics system failed then the pilots and navigators would have no video on their displays. This would result in no GPS data, no radar picture, and bombing capabilities would be lost."

With so many capabilities relying on the flawless operation of the comm/nav system, it is vital for avionics Airmen to test and certify every part that is installed on the aircraft.

"Every operational strategic radar RTM and antenna comes through our shop," he added. "When the flightline gets it, they know it's good."

Just across the room, Tech. Sgt. James Taylor, 2 MXS Avionics Flight NCO in charge, works on the aircraft's electronic countermeasures.

"Electronic Countermeasures provide a wide variety of defense for the B-52," said Taylor. "They range from providing the crew with early radar warning and electronic deception to firing off flares."

Early warning radar alerts the crew of any approaching threats, electronic deception provides misinformation to enemy radar to protect against surface to air attacks, and flares protect the aircraft from heat-seeking missiles during an air to air attack, Taylor explained.

Whether comm/nav or ECM, the avionics flight must be prepared to receive, test, repair and distribute all avionics components quickly and efficiently; Without them, the plane is flying blind and defenseless.

With the B-52 as a cornerstone of both conventional strike and nuclear deterrence, each part of this system is critical to providing safe, secure and effective employment of the nation's bomber assets.