Radar system supports Air Force mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nick Wilson
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force has some of the most devastating aerial weapon systems on the globe. The 52nd Communications Squadron supports that mission using radar to keep planes airborne.

The 52nd Fighter Wing has two ground radar systems that monitor aircraft.

"The jets could not fly without coordination from the control tower provided by our radar systems," said Senior Airman Kelly Darr, 52nd CS ground radar systems journeyman.

Airman Darr and his fellow communications Airmen perform preventative maintenance on ground radar systems to maintain flight safety for aircraft in the area of responsibility.

"We provide timely repairs to any technical issues that arise and maintain 20 additional duties that assist us in the performance of our primary duties and documentation," said Staff Sgt. David Oldenhouse, 52nd CS NCO in-charge of ground radar systems.

Maintaining these $400,000 radar systems is a job requiring attention to detail with about 1,700 preventative maintenance inspections annually and a technician on call around-the-clock. The type of maintenance performed on this equipment depends on what task needs to be performed.

"Maintenance time depends on the task and could be as short as half an hour to as long as four hours," said Airman Darr.

The radar maintainers have a set of technical orders that focus specifically on maintenance tasks, procedures and intervals for preventative maintenance inspections. There are 79 separate checks performed to certify the radar is functioning properly.

"It takes about two full days to complete a certification if we don't come across any delays," Airman Darr said.

Ground radar systems have $2.8 million of equipment available to utilize on a daily basis to maintain and control the radar systems.

Both radar systems are mounted on a 125 foot high tower that requires Airmen to take an annual climbing safety course.

"During the annual climbing safety course, we learn climbing standards, basic tower rescue and what to do if an emergency tower rescue is required," said Sergeant Oldenhouse.

Prior to becoming ground radar systems technicians, Airmen must first complete nine months of training at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Then they complete 12 - 24 months of training for their five-skill level, consisting of six volumes of career development courses and 250-400 qualification tasks, depending on the radar systems.

Here at Spangdahlem, the Airmen have 259 training tasks and are required to annually certify on each radar system before they are qualified to determine if radar systems can safely control air traffic.

The shop currently has seven members working around the clock, sometimes on cell phone standby, to respond to any issues that might inhibit the radar.

"If something doesn't work right, we come in to troubleshoot and fix it," said Senior Airman Michael Williams, 52nd CS ground radar systems journeyman. "We are the eyes of the air traffic controllers. Therefore, we are mission essential."

Aircraft fly safely in the skies around Spangdahlem because the 52nd CS radar systems technicians are on the job, ready to respond to anything, at any time.