RED HORSE Airmen literally bring safety to JSF brake testing

Airmen from 823rd and 820th RED HORSE perform stakeline installation on the mobile aircraft arresting system.  More than 150 66-inch stakes were installed to keep the MAAS in place. The team is made up of Airmen from Hurlburt Field, Fla. and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.  The RED HORSE team installed the MAAS for the on-going Joint Strike Fighter brake testing. (Air Force photo)

Airmen from 823rd and 820th RED HORSE perform stakeline installation on the mobile aircraft arresting system. More than 150 66-inch stakes were installed to keep the MAAS in place. The RED HORSE team, made up of Airmen from Hurlburt Field, Fla., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., installed the MAAS for the on-going Joint Strike Fighter brake testing. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The mobile aircraft arresting system with all of its stakes installed to hold it in place, provides and additional measure of safety during Joint Strike Fighter brake testing.  The same system is set up on the other side of the runway.  The MAAS was installed by the 823rd and 820th RED HORSE out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (Air Force photo)

The mobile aircraft arresting system, with all of its stakes installed to hold it in place, provides an additional measure of safety during Joint Strike Fighter brake testing. The same system is set up on the other side of the runway. The MAAS was installed by the 823rd and 820th RED HORSE out of Hurlburt Field, Fla., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Here in the high desert, an 11-man team consisting of five Airmen from 823rd RED HORSE out of Hurlburt Field, Fla., and six from 820th RED HORSE out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., arrived in late July to provide an added layer of safety to the Joint Strike Fighter taxiing and braking tests being performed by the 416th Flight Test Squadron.
 
The Airmen of RED HORSE, which stands for rapid engineer deployable heavy operational repair squadron engineers, travel the globe providing the Air Force with a mobile civil engineering capability.

"We go all over," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Fralick, 823rd RED HORSE Barrier Maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge.

The two teams merged due to the short notice of the deployment and the fact that equipment can be driven down from nearby Nellis AFB.

The team set up the mobile aircraft arresting system on Edwards' 12,000-foot inside runway.

The MAAS was installed in case, for whatever reason, the JSF had an emergency and would not be able to stop. It consists of two mobile braking systems, one on each side of the runway, with a cable laid across the runway between them. Specifically, the braking system is made from a modified B-52 braking system.

The mobile barrier is used for any jet equipped with a tail hook. If a jet could not stop, the tail hook would catch the cable and the MAAS' braking system would engage to slow down and stop the airplane. It's similar to the way planes land on aircraft carriers.

"The aircraft carrier uses just steel cables and steam power to stop their jets," said Sergeant Fralick. "We also use a nylon tape to absorb some of that energy and then the B-52 brakes to stop the plane."

The MAAS is held in place with more than 150 66-inch spikes driven into the ground. The team took just two days to set it up, which was notable given the short notice of their deployment. They were able to set up the MAAS in time for the JSF runway testing.

"We were anticipating it would take about four days because of the type of soil on Edwards," Sergeant Fralick said. "We heard it was really hard, which makes it harder to drive the stakes in the ground, but we ended up knocking it out in two days."

Bruce Strong, 412th Operations Support Squadron, Director of Operations for the Airfield Operations Flight, was impressed with the RED HORSE team's work.

"They basically set up the MAAS in a weekend, which was amazing," he said . "Those guys are something."

Once the JSF brake testing is finished, the RED HORSE team will break down the MAAS and transport it back to Nellis AFB.

Sergeant Fralick said RED HORSE teams set up these MAAS barriers everywhere from air shows to Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We did two installs down range this year and we also support the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels," said Sergeant Fralick. "We have an air show in Sacramento coming up where we will do the same thing. We'll set the barrier up for the duration of the air show then we'll pull it back up -- it will be like we were never there."