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Robins unit helps resurrect targeting devices

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
In the world of Air Force weapons systems, few technologies are sent to the morgue and later revived.

But a second chance at life is what Pave Penny pods receive when they arrive at the Pave Penny pod shop here in their silver boxes, known as caskets.

"When we ship them out, we no longer call these containers caskets, because they are no longer dead," said Roy Payne, an electronics technician. "When they come out of here they are going out in a cradle. You've heard of cradle to the grave; well this is from grave to the cradle."

The Pave Penny pod is a targeting device used on A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. The pod allows ground troops to illuminate targets for A-10 pilots to eliminate. The technology used in the pod is from the 1970s, but remains important to the war effort because of its target selection capability.

Knowing the importance of the mission is one of the reasons the flight's maintainers are determined to supply warfighters in all branches of service with the equipment needed to win the fight.

It wasn't long ago that the Pave Penny pod was repaired in back shops located throughout the Air Force. Today efforts are under way to phase the equipment and the Pave Penny pod workload to Robins AFB from 10 different wings at 15 different bases.

"The decision was made to do away with the back shops, and move it all to one centralized location," said John Dunn, Avionics and Instrument Flight chief.

The move began in July 2007 when the flight pulled 13 vocational technicians from some of their other missions to the Pave Penny mission. The Pave Penny pod shop has long been the primary for repairing and testing the subassembly repairable units for some time. Only recently has its mission expanded to be the primary repair unit for the entire pod.

"We make sure it is directly centered and can hit the crosshairs of its target," said Richard Newton, an integrated system technician. "At a mile, it can hit its target within 20 feet."

One of the many pod devices the shop repairs is the receiver, which is like the heart of the Pave Penny pod.

"It's great to know this receiver we are working on bolts to an A-10 and helps us defend our freedoms," said David Batchelor, an electronics technician.

The shop uses an irreplaceable legacy tester known as the Comet-ANALOG 66FH-5, to ensure the pods are ready to return to the fight.

Because the tester is somewhat antiquated, the shop's technicians work hard to ensure the tester and its parts are available to help the technicians continue to meet the needs of the Air Force and the A-10 fleet.

The shop has few spare parts for the tester. If a part malfunctions, the technicians have to repair the tester component before they can fix the pods they are responsible for. The part has to be repaired rather than replaced because the parts are designed specifically to communicate with the Comets tester.

However, the shop will soon be receiving a Versatile Depot Automatic Test Station, or VDATS, tester. It will allow the shop to focus on fixing the pods rather than the equipment needed to certify the pods as war ready.

The challenges associated with the tester and the ever increasing workload hasn't stopped shop workers from doing their job and providing the warfighter with a great product.

"They wanted 10 for March and we gave them 24," Mr. Dunn said.

Last year the shop produced five pods. The shop has been producing double digits for the last three months, Mr. Dunn added.

"Our goal is to provide the customer with whatever they need, when they need it," Mr. Dunn said.