Survivable systems team maintains Malmstrom AFB’s launch control centers
By Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 07, 2019
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AFNS) --
Every day, missileers from Malmstrom Air Force Base sit below ground in a control center, ready to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile if called upon by the president. With an array of analog technology, routine maintenance is vital to sustaining lethality.
The 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron survivable systems team is responsible for performing preventative maintenance and repairs, ensuring around-the-clock readiness for missileers to accomplish their mission.
The SST was created in 2014 as an Air Force Global Strike Command Force Improvement Program initiative to focus on launch control center maintenance.
“We are responsible for performing capsule maintenance,” said Airman 1st Class Zhane Paul, 341st MMXS SST member. “Most of our work takes place in the missile (complex), specifically the launch control centers.”
Their primary tasks include operator’s chairs and chair-railing maintenance, performing blast-door repairs and ensuring the Shock Isolator Air Compressor is working properly.
“It’s important for us to make sure the SIAC is always working properly because it’s what helps keep the floor floating and protects the missileers,” said Paul. “If the shock absorbers lose air or the floor falls a little bit, the SIAC will turn on and fill the system with air to keep the floor at the appropriate level.”
Having the capsule suspended allows it to absorb shock from a missile hitting near the site or from natural disasters, such as an earthquake.
“Because the capsule is suspended, seismic activity and nuclear blasts would be vibrated away from the capsule and would keep the missileers safe,” Paul said. “We also ‘shore’ the floor on metal pedestals to serve as a backup system if the SIAC fails.”
With many jobs in the Air Force, a set of technical orders have to be followed to accomplish a task, but in SST, many of their tasks are not read in a step-by-step process. Where some work centers use troubleshooting as a last resort, SST starts there.
“We have (technical orders) we have to follow for our job, but since we are a fairly new office, a lot of our troubleshooting procedures aren’t in our weapon system specific TOs but are in our general Air Force maintenance TOs,” Paul said. “It allows us to think outside the box.”
While all missile maintainers are capable of being able to work on missile components, SST performs more facility maintenance.
“Our (Air Force specialty code) 2M0X2 has a few different offices you can be a part of,” Paul said. “Other offices work directly with the missiles, whereas SST works primarily on the facilities, such as the (launch control centers).”
Although their job doesn’t directly work with missile components, SST is vital to ensuring the continued success of AFGSC’s mission of providing long-range precision strike capabilities.
“Ensuring nuclear hardness is our job,” Paul said. “We make sure the capsule and missileers can survive in a crisis and continue to accomplish our mission.”