JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
In a warehouse located on the 62nd Maintenance Squadron ammunitions grounds on McChord Field is the conventional maintenance production flight, which is responsible for maintaining all of the flares and ammo for Team McChord at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Staff Sgt. Chad Warner, 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production superintendent, helps maintain the flare systems for the C-17s as well as oversees the production and tear down of the flare systems.
These aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air missiles.
“We process all the flares for the jets on the flight line,” said Warner. “We host quarterly builds to keep the built up flare levels at a sufficient amount to support all the missions here and overseas. We build flares for training missions and real world missions for overseas deployment and the Antarctica missions.”
The flight tracks the lifespan on all flare systems to anticipate which ones require replacement.
“First, we do a little research on the upcoming months for the flare sets that will be expiring,” said Warner. “Every four months we will have a set of flares that will be expiring, we use this number to determine how many flares we want to build.”
They use two different types of squib or impulse cartridges for the four different types of flares the C-17 here at McChord uses.
The squibs provide a small propellant charge that ignites the flare stick.
“We do the build and then we’ll start pulling the flares from the flight line and swapping them,” said Warner. “The flare sticks themselves get put inside bulk quantity cans.”
After the build is complete they track where all the flare sets are in the world for the 48 C-17s assigned to McChord. They do this in case a set is coming up on expiration and is away from home station.
“It’s imperative that we configure everything correctly and follow our books step-by-step,” said Tech. Sgt. Bejan Saatchi, 62nd MXS conventional maintenance NCOIC. “It’s definitely important for the jets that the flare systems are loaded in the mods correctly so that way the countermeasure systems function the way they’re intended to.
“It’s imperative we don’t send a jet downrange with expired flares on it, those systems are lifesaving and it’s what they would use to stop a threat.”
They are fired off regularly for training missions and are sometimes used in deployed locations according to Saatchi.
“They come back with expenditures – we’re not informed of the circumstances but we do know that they work,” said Saatchi. “It’s definitely good knowing that we’re helping protect the aircrew and aircraft.”
Each flare set is worth approximately $50,000.
“We do a lot more than just manage the flares for the aircraft,” said Saatchi. “We’re responsible for all the munitions on McChord, which includes 38 custody accounts.”
Any organization that uses any type of explosives to include pepper spray and ammo depend on the 62 MXS ammo flight to inspect it, issue it to them and track it all.