A Super Hornet’s sophisticated weapons couldn’t leave the ground without armament technicians on hand in the Middle East to check the systems and load the bombs.
CPL Luke Smith and 15 other armament technicians from No. 1 Squadron are in charge of anything with an explosive charge on the aircraft.
Apart from bombs and missiles, armament technicians look after the aircraft’s 20mm Gatling-style Vulcan cannon, chaff, flares and aircrew ejection systems.
Armament techs will often work at an aircraft stores point (ASP) away from the hangars where the Super Hornets’ weapons are made “live” just before take-off.
It is here that any unused ordnance is made “safe” before the jets taxi back into their hangars.
“We’ll be out at the ASP arming them when they leave and making them safe when they come back,” CPL Smith said. “I did it for the first time a couple of days ago. It was a bit of a buzz being out there doing something different.”
CPL Smith trained as an aircraft technician before taking an out-oftrade posting as an armament tech.
“Being around bombs was pretty daunting to begin with but you get used to it and it becomes part of your day.
“When they’re on the ground they’re always earthed, they always have pins in them to make them safe.
“When they’re on the jet there’s weight-on-wheels switches and safety switches that will stop them going off.”
Since arriving in the Middle East, CPL Smith and the team have worked 12- to 14-hour shifts to keep the weapons in order.
Despite the long shifts he’s happy to be deployed after more than a decade in the RAAF.
“I was pretty surprised and I didn’t expect it to come at short notice,” he said.