When U.S. Air Forces in Europe recently moved to shift serviceable rocket motors from the older, first generation AIM-120A Advanced Medium-Range Air to Air Missiles and put them in the unserviceable, yet newer and more capable AIM-120B and C models, the 435th Munitions Squadron volunteered to front the effort.
“The new-acquisition costs would have been considerable,” said Capt. Derek Plymate, 435th MUNS Operations Officer. “What we were able to complete in three weeks would have taken years if we had shipped them back Stateside.”
The in-house weapon overhaul of 63 missiles saved the Air Force more than $31 million, approximately three years of time and was the largest field retrofit in the AMRAAM’s history, said Captain Plymate.
***image1***Munitions Airmen worked side-by-side with Raytheon contractors to meticulously remove rocket motors from the A models, and then provided them to contractors to place in the B and C model missiles.
“It was initially stressful,” said Senior Airman William Hill, 435th MUNS crewmember. Munitions Airmen typically have little hands-on time with the AIM-120 and are limited to testing and reprogramming it, since the weapon is under a warranty with the manufacturer. “The first few days we were only able to complete two missiles a day. As we got more comfortable, we completed six missiles a day.”
The missiles, which are used on the F-15, F-16, and F/A-22 fighter jets, are part of USAFE’s war reserve assets, but also serve as a forward-positioned stockpile for the U.S. Central Command and elsewhere, and may be shipped downrange.
“This was important in ensuring the warfighter has what he needs to accomplish the mission,” said Master Sgt. Clayton Kimball, 435th MUNS Section Chief.
“What the warfighter needs tomorrow, we can send to them today,” said Capt. Plymate.