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ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) — A Robins Air Force Base unit recently developed a prototype infrared suppression system for the AC-130U Spooky.

402nd Commodities Maintenance Group personnel developed the prototype after receiving an urgent requirement for the IRSS. Working from a design by S&K Technologies, which also provided on-site technical support, specialists in 12 production shops and multiple support personnel within the group combined forces to accomplish the task.

The IRSS, known as “tubs” because it looks like a large sheet metal bathtub, is mounted underneath the gunship’s engines to protect the aircrew and aircraft from ground-fire threats, and to disperse and hide engine heat sources from infrared-guided anti-aircraft missiles. The prototype helped alleviate many of the installation and maintenance problems with the current system.

“Tubs require time-consuming maintenance in the field and expensive, difficult maintenance here at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center,” said Chad Langston, the AC-130U program manager. “The new system is made out of tougher, more corrosion resistant materials. It’s going to minimize maintenance greatly.”

The existing system was not only difficult to install, but once installed, the tubs were “uniquely mated” to a particular aircraft, even a particular engine. The new tubs are designed to be completely interchangeable from engine to engine and from aircraft to aircraft.

“This gives a lot of flexibility out in the field,” said Mark Dixon, director of the 572nd Aircraft Sustainment Squadron gunship flight.

In addition to a decrease in installation times of about 65 percent, the prototype is also about 240 pounds lighter.

“That means more fuel savings and longer loiter times, and that translates to longer times with our aircraft being able to watch over our troops on the ground,” Mr. Langston said.

The IRSS prototype is different from other Warner Robins Air Logistics Center acquisitions because it was built here by government employees as part of a partnering agreement with a contractor.

George Pierce, the sheet metal manufacturing flight chief assigned to the 573rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron, said S&K Technologies selected Warner Robins Air Logistics Center because of its heavy industrial capability and its ability to expedite development and meet a compressed delivery date to the customer.

Mr. Pierce said the way so many people came together to complete the project successfully despite a compressed target date was “phenomenal.”

Despite multiple planning impediments and logistics setbacks, more than 75 employees of the 402nd CMXG worked seven-day work weeks and 10- and 12-hour shifts to deliver the tubs on time. More than 30 employees worked through the Independence Day holiday weekend to ensure the IRSS prototypes were completed.

“The prototype was truly a team effort with S&K Technologies, the systems program office and the men and women of the 402nd CMXG,” said Herman Raiff, the 402nd CMXG director. “I am proud to have the opportunity to lead such a great team of dedicated professionals.”

The heavily armed AC-130U incorporates side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation. Its primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance.

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