HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The divestiture of one of the 388th Fighter Wing’s premier maintenance back shops has concluded, marking the end of an era that supported test, training and real-world defense operations since the late 1980s.
While the draw-down across the Air Force began in late 2011, it has only recently wrapped up here at Hill, where Airmen from the 388th FW’s “LANTIRN pod” shop have either been cross-trained into another specialty or brought into the wing’s Electronic Warfare section, which maintains pods that provide electronic countermeasures for the F-16.
The low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) system is used on the Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 C/D Fighting Falcon, two legendary fighter jets that have been employed by the United States in nearly every conflict in the last 20 years.
LANTIRN significantly increases the combat effectiveness of the aircraft, allowing them to fly at low altitudes, at night, and under the weather to attack ground targets. It consists of navigation and targeting “pods” mounted externally beneath the aircraft.
Master Sgt. Michael Truchanowicz, former member of the LANTIRN shop and current Electronic Warfare System section chief, said one of his greatest memories was riding in the back of an F-16 and seeing firsthand how his efforts affect the mission.
“My pilot knew I was a LANTIRN troop, so he asked if I wanted to check out the target pod video,” Truchanowicz said. “It was nice to see my work in action as he scanned nearby mountains. Getting the chance to see the video feed as he scanned the terrain is something I’ll never forget.”
Testing and aligning the targeting pods is tedious work, but it’s of the utmost importance as guiding bombs to their targets is the primary function. Senior Airman Sarah Robinson said making sure every pod was maintained to the very best of her ability was a principle instilled in early in her career.
“Here at Hill, I learned the essence of quality workmanship. It was instilled in me to perform the maintenance right the first time,” she said.
“My supervisor had explained the criticality of LANTIRN targeting pods — the difference between an attitude of “that will have to do,” versus “it needs to be done to the best of my ability,” Robinson said. “He further explained the correlation between the two mentalities was the pilot bombing an enemy camp or a school directly next to it.”
When the Hill LANTIRN shop was first established, it was to support the F-16 aircraft that were assigned to the 388th FW. In 2007, the Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility concept was born — in which some wing-level maintenance shops were consolidated across the Air Force. With the implementation of the LANTIRN CRF at Hill, 388th FW Airmen were responsible for all targeting and navigation pod maintenance for aircraft from Air National Guard units in Arizona and Texas, as well as Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Luke AFB, Nevada; and Edwards AFB, California.
Master Sgt. Erica Fox, assistant avionics flight chief in the 388th FW’s Component Maintenance Squadron, said the unit’s record speaks volumes about the high-caliber Airmen who executed this mission.
“At peak operation, the Hill LANTIRN CRF maintained 276 LANTIRN pods. A typical shop maintains approximately 40,” Fox said. While the Combat Air Force standard is 85 percent, Fox said the unit boasted a 92 percent mission-capable rate.
Fox said Hill’s LANTIRN pod shop supported the Air Force’s vital training mission, but also maintained pods that were critical to real-world operations around the world.
“We’ve shipped pods across the world in support of real-world conflicts,” Fox said.
“The pods used at Luke AFB were vital in training our fighter pilots, and the support we provided to Edwards AFB enabled countless test and evaluation successes.”
The 388th FW was the first unit to fly the F-16 into conflict with the LANTIRN system over the skies of Iraq and Kuwait during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the wing continued to employ the LANTIRN pod in Operations Desert Calm, Desert Fox, and Northern and Southern Watch.
“I can’t express just how proud I am of our LANTIRN professionals,” said Lt. Col. Steven Oliver, 388th Component Maintenance Squadron commander. “They have maintained a major asset used in real-world operations and because of their skill we continue to exploit air dominance.”
The LANTIRN pod shop was named the 388th FW Component Maintenance Squadron’s Section of the Year in 2003, 2008 and 2013.