U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Caruso conducts an operations check on a sniper pod at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of the Air Force
A U.S. Air Force avionics technician developed a new way to test the functionality of a sniper pod and the electrical systems of a Lockheed Martin F-16. According to the U.S. Defense Department, Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Caruso, who is with the maintenance unit attached to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, pioneered a way to detect problems and troubleshoot those systems.
Defense said that Caruso’s two methods involved a digital video recorder tester and a sniper pod test stand. To use the video recorder method, Caruso bought a small television. According to Defense, he connects it to the aircraft, and it gives him a live view of what pilots see on their systems.
"The DVR tester allows me to interface with the aircraft and bypass the digital video recorder head unit, which records all of the videos from the multifunction display," Caruso said. "The multifunction display shows the pilot what is going on with the aircraft. It will also show radio frequencies, flight displays and other visual aids the pilot has while flying."
Bypassing the system, Caruso continued, gives him the ability to view everything and troubleshoot “down to a broken wire.” Traditionally, he would have to take a cartridge out of the head unit and bring it over to another section, which is usually not manned 24/7, to give it an ops check. His method allows him a real-time view.
"The sniper pod test stand allows us to troubleshoot a pod by performing maintenance on it and perform ops checks without physically mounting it to the aircraft," Caruso said of his other innovation.
According to Defense, the apparatuses used to hold the sniper pod in place on the aircraft block certain compartments, limiting the maintenance airmen. Caruso’s stand, which he designed using computer-aided design software he found online, enables maintainers to conduct ops checks on the sniper pod as if it were actually mounted to the aircraft and repair it.
"This innovation saves between two to three hours during sniper pod maintenance," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Wesley Ruuti, superintendent of 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-16 maintenance. "That equates to around six to nine total man hours, given pod maintenance is usually performed by two to three personnel.
"Crews are now able to simply roll the new pod mounted stand next to the aircraft to conduct any necessary troubleshooting," he continued. "If the mission dictates, they would be able to return the aircraft to combat ready status in less than 20 minutes."