Squadron Innovation solves decade-long issue for the F-15E

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Savanah Bray
  • 53d Wing
The aircraft Modification Support Team lead, Mr. Carlos Oregon, in the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force designed and built a tester to safeguard the AN/ASQ-236 “Dragon’s Eye” Radar Pod, a limited and precious asset in the F-15E Strike Eagle community.
The AN/ASQ-236 Radar Pod, known as the “RPOD” or “Recce Pod” is an essential tool for the F-15E Strike Eagle and its operators. Using AESA technology, the RPOD’s use in theater and in developing SAR mapping tactics is crucial to the lethality of the F-15E.
However, in order to ensure that the aircraft and the RPOD communicate properly, specifically that the aircraft doesn’t create a power surge that could ruin the pod, maintenance professionals must use a tester that checks voltages passed from the jet to the store. Until now, Mx Avionics technicians used a Cold War era common tester, originally designed for the F-4, for this function.  Unfortunately, these antique assets are in extremely limited supply, are prone to break, and can only be repaired by being sent to Warner-Robbins AFB.  A tester specifically for the AN/ASQ-236 was never developed along-side of this 21st century AESA radar technology, which ultimately resulted in the F-15E community either not using the RPOD or assuming the risk of potentially irreparably damaging it if testers were not available.
“It came to the point that we were ferrying these limited testers around the country, trying to figure out ways to generate this combat capability, when Carlos [Oregon] realized he has the capability and knowledge to build himself and teach others to do the same” said Lt. Col. Reade Loper, F-15E Test Director
Recognizing the need for a specialized tester that protected the RPOD, Mr. Oregon decided he could start with a general tester and develop it specifically for the RPOD.
“About 15 years ago, a generic tester was provided to the CAF, but it didn’t have the cables and upgrades to interface with the aircraft,” said Oregon. “We had designed cables and software to use this generic tester in a lot of systems, like secondary power and landing gear. I realized if I found the funding, I could build the cables and teaming up with Robbins, we could write the software for this tester to be used [on the Strike Eagle RPOD]” Mr. Oregon brought this issue to the leadership at the OFP CTF and they set out to make it happen.
Carlos and the OFP CTF were able to secure 53d Wing Squadron Innovation Funds for the RPOD tester and partnered with teams at Robbins AFB and Seymour Johnson AFB to develop the paperwork, purchase the parts, build and certify the harnesses, and write the software, solving a decade-long issue for the F-15E community in mere months.
Oregon continued that it can be easy to say “we can’t do something,” but when we’re able to get around the bureaucracy, “there are a lot of things we can do, and this is one of the examples that.” This is a perfect example of executing the CSAF’s action orders with regards to Accelerate Change or Lose, specifically Bureaucracy and Design Implementation. The Chief says to “Be bold and take initiative” as well as have “the courage to take action while learning from our setbacks and failures on our way to success.” Mr. Oregon had the vision to see a problem, coupled with the courage to find a solution outside the normal acquisitions bureaucracy and executed his plan to perform his primary mission of supporting the warfighter.
In the end, it took Carlos just $7,000 to build enough cables/harnesses for the entire CAF, and protect and sustain a multi-million-dollar asset that provides invaluable combat capability.
“These pods are being used downrange and we need to be able to keep this limited asset [flying],” said Loper. “The new tester is easy to maintain and fix and inexpensive enough to provide a solution for the entire CAF.”
The final step is a flight test before the tester is rolled out to F-15E Units across the country.