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McChord Airmen maintain vital countermeasures

Staff Sgt. Chad Warner, 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production superintendent, unloads squibs or impulse cartridges, which provide a small propellant charge that ignite the flare stick, to build flares for the C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 14, 2017. A single C-17 flare system costs approximately $50,000 and are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air missiles. (Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley)

Staff Sgt. Chad Warner, 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production superintendent, unloads squibs or impulse cartridges, which provide a small propellant charge that ignite the flare stick, to build flares for the C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 14, 2017. A single C-17 flare system costs approximately $50,000 and are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air missiles. (Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley)

A 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance Airman stamps newly built C-17 Globemaster III flares at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 14, 2017. These aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air missiles. (Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley)

A 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance Airman stamps newly built C-17 Globemaster III flares at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 14, 2017. These aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air missiles. (Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- In a warehouse located on the ammunition grounds here is the conventional maintenance production flight, which is responsible for maintaining all of the flares and ammo for 62nd Airlift Wing.

Staff Sgt. Chad Warner, 62nd Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production superintendent, helps maintain flare systems for C-17s, and oversees the production and tear down of the flare systems.These aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat heat seeking surface-to-air missiles.

“We process all the flares for the jets on the flight line,” said Warner. “We host quarterly builds to keep the built up flare levels at a sufficient amount to support all the missions here and overseas. We build flares for training missions and real world missions; for overseas deployments and the Antarctica missions.”

The flight tracks the lifespan on all flare systems to anticipate which ones require replacement. Each flare set is worth approximately $50,000.

“First, we do a little research on the upcoming months for the flare sets that will be expiring,” said Warner. “Every four months we will have a set of flares that will be expiring, we use this number to determine how many flares we [need] to build.”

There are two different types of cartridges for the four different types of C-17 flares. The cartridges provide a small propellant charge that ignites the flare stick. 

“We do the build and then we’ll start pulling the flares from the flight line and swapping them,” said Warner. “The flare sticks themselves get put inside bulk quantity cans.”

After the build is complete Airmen track where all the flare sets are in the world for 48 C-17s assigned to McChord. They do this in case a set is coming up on expiration and is away from home station.

“It’s imperative that we configure everything correctly and follow our books step-by-step,” said Tech. Sgt. Bejan Saatchi, 62nd MXS NCOIC conventional maintenance. “It’s definitely important for the jets that the flare systems are loaded in the mods correctly. So that way the countermeasure systems function the way they’re intended to. It’s imperative we don’t send a jet downrange with expired flares on it, those systems are lifesaving and it’s what they would use to stop a threat.”

Flares are fired off regularly for training missions and are sometimes used in deployed locations, said Saatchi.

“They come back with expenditures – we’re not informed of the circumstances, but we do know that they work,” said Saatchi. “It’s definitely good knowing that we’re helping protect the aircrew and aircraft.”