F-15 Weapons Crews Certified to Lock and Load
By Staff Sgt. Christy Mason, 120th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 13, 2009
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- As the 120th Fighter Wing finishes its transition from the F-16 Falcon to the F-15 Eagle, many sections have had to undergo upgrade training for the new aircraft. In January, Airmen from the Weapons Shop Load Standardization Crew (LSC) finished their certification and showcased it by providing fellow Airmen and wing personnel a weapons load demonstration on an F-15 Eagle.
Master Sgt. Randy Lilly, LSC supervisor, and Tech. Sgts. Christopher Kunkel and Justin Thompson, LSC members, spent three months receiving their upgrade training at bases in Florida, Oregon and Idaho.
We went down to the guard base in Jacksonville, Florida, where their LSC trained and certified us on each position. Now that we're certified, we'll be certifying each guardsman and each crew here at the base," said Sergeant Thompson. "Each person will be trained and have to load the F-15 twice. They will then be fully certified if both loads are good."
The unit's mission has evolved from air-to-ground to an air-to-air mission, so the weapon loaders will be learning to load the AIM-120 and the AIM-9 missiles, a change from the assortment of missiles and bombs the F-16 could be required to have loaded. The training is projected to take about two weeks per crew and will take place over the next year.
"We'll be in charge of making sure everyone knows what they are doing around the missiles, how to get them on the plane safely, and to make sure they come off the aircraft when the pilot wants them to," said Sergeant Lilly.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the weapons crews was the lack of aircraft to work and train on. During the transition, the wing was left without any aircraft as they awaited the arrival of the new fighters, making training upkeep tough.
Although most members of the crew have worked solely on the F-16, all agreed the transition would be an easy one to make.
"The airframe is quite a bit bigger and it has tighter spaces, but I think it will be a nice change of pace for the guardsmen. It's something new for them to learn and they're excited," said Sergeant Thompson.