Manufacturing shop maintains cables that operate on a variety of weapon systems
By Jenny Gordon, Robins Public Affairs
/ Published January 08, 2016
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- You can't fly an aircraft without wires.
Skilled hands from members of the 569th Electronics Maintenance Squadron's electronics manufacturing shop ensure miles of wires are safely repaired and replaced for eventual installation across a variety of components on Air Force weapons systems.
There's the wiring harness shop that produces cables on the Sniper Pod, a targeting system deployed on multiple platforms, including the F-15, F-16, F-18, B-1, B-2 and A-10. The Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, is the sole repair source for the Sniper Pod.
Then there is the C-5 Galaxy main landing gear sequence control panels, where a major effort is currently underway to overhaul the system. A prototype of a set of left, right and nose landing-gear controls have already been produced, each with new wiring that includes relays, switches and connectors.
That effort has already taken about 250 man hours. While installation is still years away, preparation is happening now at Robins to ensure these parts are ready when needed.
It's the shop's goal to be the Department of Defense's No. 1 choice when it comes to manufacturing.
Recently, their assistance proved critical when personnel in the shop came together to produce F-15 nose landing-gear cables.
This urgency was evident because without them, production could not continue with several aircraft awaiting programmed depot maintenance on the flight line.
That call for help came toward the end of November and early December, with the shop producing four cables within one week, allowing four PDM backorders to be filled. The shop will continue to satisfy upcoming requirements to ensure there is stock on hand.
Taking care of people, keeping morale high and motivating each other is key in shops that must work under such tight deadlines.
"When I approach this type of work I think of it as, 'What if my mom was on these planes?'," said Bryson Marshall, an electronics mechanic at Robins for 13 years. "We touch every piece of wire here. I know we're making a difference."
On Sniper pod wiring, it's the shop's largest workload. A team is spread out in one corner of a building, armed with dedicated mylar boards that sit across tables, each a representation of how a particular wiring system is guided, laid out and built.
Here technicians build up fuselage, cockpit, pylon, wheel well and EMD, or electromagnetic disturbance cables. Once all the wiring parts have been carefully laid and assembled, they're taken to a braiding room where the wires are joined together.
"Everything we do connects that Sniper pod to the aircraft," said Vern Williams, Manufacturing Element chief.
During one particular visit in mid-December, an automatic taping system was gearing up for use, a welcome move for many in the shop. It's expected to yield considerable time savings.
In the past when a wire was ready to be taped, it would take over an hour to perform the job on a 60-foot cable. The new machine can braid the same length in about five minutes.
One area that has lately improved efficiency and accountability in the shop is where kitting is tracked. Sandra Peters, 569th EMXG inventory management specialist, now works behind the scenes ensuring all of the shop's parts are documented and tracked before they're distributed to technicians across the electronics complex.
"It's been a huge improvement. This way we know if and when we have supportable parts," she said.
Melanie Mucher, an electronics technician who has been at Robins for 15 years, builds cables for a living. She understands the importance of the work that happens in her squadron.
"An aircraft can have an engine, it can have all the parts it needs, but it's not going anywhere without wires," she said.