Cruise missile flight Airmen protect aircrews, aim for excellence

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Moua
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 9:10am

There's one place on base where a critical part of the Barksdale mission fuels, maintains, loads and tests missiles under one roof.

Barksdale's 2nd Munitions Squadron cruise missile flight sustains Air Force Global Strike Command's only Conventional Air Launch Cruise Missile stockpile.

"Our number one goal is deterrence," said Master Sgt. Scottie Cantrell, NCO in-charge of launcher maintenance. "We work on a fascinating weapons system that is guaranteed to work."

"One can think of a cruise missile as a small aircraft that doesn't come back," said 2nd Lt. Dayna Grant, 2nd Munitions Squadron assistant cruise missile flight commander. "It is one of the smartest weapons in our inventory and provides a long-range strike capability."

However, cruise missiles boast more than just a longer range over conventional munitions.

"The cruise missile has a jet engine, flight control surfaces, and internal navigation controls which act like a pilot to steer the missile," said Capt. Andrew Cooper, 2nd Munitions Squadron cruise missile flight commander. "It can change altitude or direction and make multiple passes over its target."

Cruise missile technology allows B-52H Stratofortress aircrews to launch them far from harm.

"The B-52 can fly into a region and the missile will cover the rest of the distance while the B-52 flies home without being in danger," Cooper said.

Due to the missile's highly technical construction, Airmen who work on them require diverse training which begins at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

"This career field is one of the most versatile career fields in the Air Force," Grant said. "It encompasses a variety of different skill sets, to include technical expertise in fuels, structures, weapons loading, electric maintenance, avionics and handling."

In pursuit of excellence, cruise missile flight Airmen work hard to accomplish the deterrence mission.

"The world doesn't know where our nuclear-capable submarines are and they don't know the status of our intercontinental ballistic missiles," Cooper said. "But they can see Barksdale generating B-52s on the flight line which can be enough to quell conflict in a region because they know America's capability. The rest of the world can see the B-52 fleet and its arsenal of weapons and know that we can reach out and touch them." 

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