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Saved From Destruction.

On 16 Nov 2020, the pilot of an A-1OC aircraft assigned to Moody AFB, Georgia, encountered a mishap while flying a training mission. During the flight, the pilot fired the 30 mm Gatling gun; however, the gun abruptly stopped after about 100 rounds. This created a hazardous condition, and the pilot immediately radioed the control tower, declaring an in-flight emergency. The aircraft landed and parked at the designated location, to be evaluated by both the 23d Armament Response Team and the 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Weapons Load Crew. After the load crew tried for several minutes to disarm the gun system, it was evident that the Armament Response Team would have to step in.

Within minutes, the Armament Response Team had identified the problem: three bullets were lodged in the gun. The Team also discovered several interior gun parts had been damaged, and were wedged in the gun-clearing path. This prevented the team from placing the gun system (and the aircraft) into a safe condition. The bullets themselves were a type of percussion-fired round, which served only to make the extremely dangerous situation even more so. The Armament Response Team continued to look, and finally identified the damaged part and its location within the jammed system. With limited options, the team formed a critical plan to remove the part. If successful, the gun system could be made safe.

Following the Technical Order (TO) procedures, the team began to disassemble the gun system, removing two of the 9-foot gun barrels. This allowed them to reach 2 of the 3 bullets lodged in the system. Exercising extreme caution, they carefully removed the two bullets. The team then tried to remove the third bullet, but it was too far back in the system. There appeared to be only one way to remove this bullet, and the Armament Response Team devised a rather clever plan: They realigned the damaged breech bolt assembly by shifting it backward with a pry bar, while simultaneously rotating the gun system with another pry bar. After a few frustrating attempts, the gun system rotated just enough for the team to realign the assembly with the mid rotor tracks. This allowed the gun system to rotate freely, and enabled the Team to extract the last bullet. The gun and aircraft were safe at last.

As the 2W1X1 career field saying goes, "WITHOUT WEAPONS, THE AIR FORCE IS JUST ANOTHER AIRLINE." Weapons are essential to the success of the mission, but they require careful handling, and dangerous situations can create mishaps. The Armament Response Team's quick and meticulous actions prevented a gun system from inadvertently firing. They prevented catastrophic damage to the aircraft, and, more importantly, they protected Airmen's lives.


Photo by SrA Chris Drzazgowski

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Author:Easley, John D., Jr.
Publication:Combat Edge
Date:Jun 22, 2021
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