Approximately eight F/A- 18 Hornets have suffered catastrophic high-speed automatic gun jams potentially caused by a combination of bad ammunition and loose solenoids, causing severe damage to aircraft gun systems from several squadrons assigned to the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group.
With another eight aircraft M61A1/ A2 guns also requiring adjustments, members from Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department’s (AIMD) IM-3 Division have been working around the clock to expedite repairs.
“Each gun is like a big “Swiss watch” and has to be timed perfectly in order to work properly,” said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Nathan Knopp. “Rebuilding the guns from the ground up is the next step.”
Technical representatives have been brought on board to address these problems as well as train both intermediate and organizational level personnel.
“All other maintenance is secondary to these weapons systems,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Jared Stone. “The damaged gun systems have been completely disassembled and inspected for damage and parts placed on order so we can rebuild the guns and keep our planes ready for what may come in the future.”
Additionally, Sailors from IM-3 are continuing to support the air wing by repairing bomb racks, missile launchers and pylons. The M61A1/A2 gun is a structural component of the aircraft, as well as an armament system. Without this component as a ballast, aircraft cannot fly off the flight deck.
“At one point IM-3 ordnance was assembling guns that were not operational in combat,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd class Sean Sutton. “This provided the air wing with planes that could still fly for mission and allow pilots to meet their required flight hours.”
To date ordnance technicians have worked approximately 132 hours in the removal of damaged live rounds, disassembly of the guns, inspection, ordering parts and maintenance on the solenoids.
“I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of my Sailors every day,” said Knopp. “They are doing a lot of critical work under difficult circumstances with very short timelines in order to support our soldiers on the ground.”
Repairs are still being conducted and are estimated to take hundreds of hours to rebuild the guns as parts arrive from off station.