YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Airmen of the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMX), the backbone of Yokota’s flying forces, is responsible for keeping the base’s fleet of C-130J Super Hercules airborne.
The C-130J is an advanced military aircraft that only looks like its previous models on the outside. Its insides are packed with advanced guidance, communication, and defense systems keeping U.S. military forces on the cutting edge of mission capability, but those superior systems require dedicated maintenance to remain ready.
That maintenance is broken up into specialty teams of maintainers designated to specialized areas of upkeep for the aircraft.
“We verify the integrity of all the communications, navigation, electronic countermeasures, and mission systems for the C-130J,” said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Jacobs, 374th AMXS communication and navigation NCOIC. “Our shop handles all the systems that deal with things happening outside the aircraft. A radio call or a missile being fired at it, our responsibility is making sure these C-130Js can handle anything on the outside.”
C-130J missions can range from transporting cargo, cargo air drop, deploying paratroopers and close ground support to name a few. Such versatility requires coordination via several radio systems, navigational aids, threat detection and missile defense systems.
“Communication and defense are critical, so we spend a lot of our time going over those systems,” said Tech. Sgt. Branden Griffin, 374th AMXS communication and navigation craftsman. “The C-130J is basically a flying computer shaped like an aircraft, so it’s able to tell you when something is wrong with a radio or the missile warning system. This includes the defensive chaff and flare firing switches, but we train our Airmen to take no chances and manually check for possible power surges, signals, etc., to ensure chaff and flare cartridges are installed safely.”
All maintenance operations begin the same way, by booting up the aircraft’s on-board computer and performing a diagnostic test. If something’s malfunctioning, the system will produce an error code for communication and navigation Airmen to locate a broken part or ensure safe conditions for installing new hardware.
“Troubleshooting the C-130J is like building a puzzle,” said Airman 1st Class Alexis Smith, 374th AMXS C-130 communication and navigation journeyman. “We know how the aircraft is supposed to work, but we can’t just rely on what a manual says when something goes wrong. We lean on our system knowledge and practical experience to figure out the missing piece and get the aircraft up and running again quickly.”
While routine, the training for and practice of safe and quick maintenance is vital in keeping the C-130J ready for any mission demanded of it. Communication and navigation Airmen are part of several 374th AMXS specialties that are dedicated to keeping Yokota’s rapid airlift fleet ready for the fight when called for.