AIR WEAPONS SYSTEMS TECHNICIAN
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
ARCHIBALD : I’m Corporal Steve Archibald from Greenwood, Nova Scotia – an Air Weapons Systems Technician currently posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake.
AUGER: And I’m Corporal Alexandre Auger from Saguenay, Quebec – an Air Weapons Systems Technician currently posted to 3 Wing Bagotville.
Without armament there wouldn’t be any Air Force really, because, apart from the transport aspect of the Air Force, really the role of the F-18 in general is: it’s a weapons platform, and without weapons, the F-18 is just a really fast jet.
ARCHIBALD: As an Air Weapons Systems Technician, or AWS Tech, I work in the hangar and on the flight line, installing, repairing and testing these complex weapons systems.
AUGER: Somebody that works at the squadron would work on the flight line, would do most of the loading on the aircraft, and the maintenance with regards to all the systems that are on-board the aircraft that have to do with armament. That also includes the gun system and the racks and launchers that are on the aircraft. Whereas second-liner shop duties like here – what we do is we assemble and disassemble bombs, missiles; we fill the 20-millimetre karts that we deliver to the squadron and we fill the chaff and flare pods for them as well.
ARCHIBALD: As part of the Air Maintenance team, we work with Avionics and Aviation Systems Techs to make sure that every aircraft takes off with the ability to carry out its mission, and the firepower to back it up.
AUGER: You want to be sure that you’re working within all the norms and that everything is safe when you’re working, so that your weapon will function as designed.
ARCHIBALD: We serve on Air Force bases across Canada, aboard ship with our maritime helicopters, and wherever our squadrons deploy.
ARCHIBALD: To me, the coolest thing about being an Air Weapons Systems Tech are the weapons themselves.
It’s pretty powerful stuff, especially when you get into the live stuff and you’re loading them. If you’re sitting down on the jack we use to load the missiles and you’ve got the live AIM-7 missile motor sitting in front of your face, it gets the adrenaline flowing sometimes.
AUGER: Going on the range and seeing one of these… the live versions of the bombs behind me… seeing one of those blow.
ARCHIBALD: One of the best things about being an Air Weapons Systems Tech is definitely the camaraderie within our crews. Ninety-five percent of the things that we do are working with two, three, four people, so you’re always working with your buddies, and we’re a pretty tight-knit group.
AUGER: And there’s another important – and demanding – dimension to being an Air Weapons Systems Tech. We call it E.O.D., explosive ordnance disposal.
Whenever somebody finds a piece of explosive or there’s a dud on the range, it’s your job to go and make it safe, and most of the time, making it safe means blowing it up.
AUGER: When you join the Air Force, you’ll start with your Basic Military training, and then you’ll move on to your specialized training in flight line operations and air weapons systems.
ARCHIBALD: You’ll spend about six months at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering at Borden, Ontario.
AUGER: At Borden, you’ll learn the fundamentals of all the air weapons systems in the Canadian arsenal: how they work, how to install and uninstall them, and how to load, store and test them.
ARCHIBALD: There’s also an intensive focus on explosives storage and disposal, the basics of E.O.D. And you’ll spend some time out on the flight line, learning how to service aircraft in all conditions.
ARCHIBALD: When you complete your course at Borden, you’ll be assigned to a squadron of CF-18 fighter jets at Cold Lake, Alberta, or Bagotville, Quebec or to other Squadrons where the aircraft carry weapons.
AUGER: You have to be motivated, interested in what you do. You have to pay attention to detail. You need to be thorough with your work because there’s a lot of risk involved, even though it’s not very apparent sometimes. It’s like working on the aircraft, basically. You need to be able to read rules, read the technical manuals and know how to apply them well.
ARCHIBALD: My first year here at the squadron was a giant learning curve for me, so I’ve pretty much attached myself to somebody who had been there for a few years, and he was kind of like a mentor to me. Now I’m one of the senior guys, and I’m teaching other people how we work at our squadron.
AUGER: I’ve been on exercise a couple of times and I will be leaving in a couple of months again to go overseas. There’s always the whole aspect of, you know, going somewhere new, somewhere exciting.
ARCHIBALD: We fly about fifteen of our jets down to California in the fall time, and Florida in the springtime. We spend about three weeks there flying a lot of missions, loading a lot of weapons. You’re there with all your friends doing the job you love.
AUGER: You basically do the same job you do here, but it’s basically more concentrated. You’re supporting something very direct, very specific.
ARCHIBALD: With all of the things that we get to do here, all of the people I get to meet, places we get to go; it’s a great trade.
AIR WEAPONS SYSTEMS TECHNICIAN
IN THE CANADIAN FORCES