Combat proven: Complex sole repair source for sniper pods

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
You can run, but you can't hide. When there's a 450-pound, electro-optical targeting system strapped under an F-15 Eagle following your every ground movement, there are few, if any places, on the planet to seek cover.

After all, these eyes in the sky can provide situational awareness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that can target enemy forces from great distances with unparalleled precision unlike any other capability in a military's arsenal.

Known as the Sniper pod, its combat-proven interior components are solely repaired here at Robins Air Force Base in the 566th Electronics Maintenance Squadron.

It's used across Air Force platforms including the A-10, F-15, F-16, B-1 and B-52.

Through a unique partnership with Lockheed Martin, company representatives and engineers are located just steps away from skilled technicians located in the repair facility, which stood up in 2005.

"Our future looks bright with our workload," said Charles O'Malley, Sniper system supervisor." With the crew we have and pods we've repaired, we hear from the field how reliable these pods are."

Bill Spangenberg, Lockheed Martin Sniper ATP program manager, said, "The partnership is a unique arrangement and leverages the strengths of both organizations to allow for a level of success not possible separately.

"The backbone of the partnership's success has always been the tireless work ethic and outstanding attitude of the team members and their dedication to the warfighter," he added.

The squadron has repaired over 600 Sniper pods for U.S. military customers, as well as over 350 for foreign military partners.

There are plans to stand up five additional test stations in the future.

Pods are repaired across two phases here. During the first phase, a total of 28 different line reparable units are worked, which includes cleaning and changing the pod's circuit cards.

A majority of the components are tested and assembled inside another modular clean room.

Four separate stations sit inside the specially-designed clean room - a controlled environment that filters dust and other contaminants - which include several electronics technicians who repair the pod's fiber optics, perform laser checks and test repeatedly once re-assembled.

As you move down a small hallway inside the modular building, each room holds specialized equipment, several containing test alignment tables which were stabilized nearly 10 feet underground due to vibrations felt from trains passing across Ga. Highway 247.

The work is painstakingly detail-oriented, requiring steady hands, a perfectly trained eye and a committed mindset that failure is not an option.

As you move down the hall, each room takes separate pieces of the pod before it's eventually put back together. One room repairs and tests boresight modules, which are located on the rear of the pod's gymbal unit.

Another performs optical alignments, a mechanism station where motors are tested on all LRUs. Here, you can see how FLIR, forward-looking infrared video, can relay images of a potential target to an aircrew.

Caleb Burt, an electronics technician, works in the fiber optics room, performing checks on the pod's laser transmitter.

"It's a pretty simple concept," he said. "One cool thing about this system is it has a marker laser inside that's used for air-to-ground communication. This little piece can line up and pick you up from miles away."

In the final assembly room, visitors can see how a simple toolkit can disassemble and reassemble any area of the pod itself.

It can even be used to hook a pod's connector from an F-15 to an A-10 in as little as 15 minutes. Software is also uploaded onto the pod here, as well as final testing procedures.

Another feature is the pod's ability to exchange information, taking signals off of one pod and using it to dispel weapons on another as needed.

It's all part of the most widely-deployed targeting system in use today, with a multitude of moving parts working behind-the-scenes to ensure strike mission requirements are ultimately met downrange.

"This is a great system," said Jeffrey Nauss, electronics technician. "It keeps our folks safe and us safe."

"This Sniper partnership has worked as a great team effort for nine years within EMXG, and has a bright future. I am proud of everyone's efforts to make this system readily available to the warfighter" said George Frazier, 566th EMXS director.