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Air Force

Air Weapons Systems Technician

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time


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Overview

Air Weapons Systems Technicians maintain aircraft air weapons systems. They also perform explosives storage and handling, and provide Explosive Ordnance Disposal duties for the Air Force.

Their primary responsibilities are to:

  • Test, inspect and repair Air Weapons Systems
  • Perform quality assurance checks
  • Prepare and maintain aircraft forms and statistical data
  • Perform aircraft handling tasks that include:
    • Parking
    • Towing
    • Marshalling
    • Starting
    • Refueling
    • Cleaning
    • De-icing
    • Loading/unloading weapons
    • Weapons systems
  • Operate aircraft support equipment

Work environment

Air Weapons Systems Technicians are employed primarily at air bases in aircraft maintenance organizations, in maintenance hangers, shop environments and on flight lines. Air Weapons Systems Technicians may also perform these same duties and responsibilities onboard a ship at sea or on an airfield at a deployed site. They will also be called upon to perform some duties in airborne aircraft. In geographic terms, employment can vary from Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) wings and bases within Canada, including the Arctic, to locations throughout the world in response to internationals commitments.

Career Overview

Transcript

TITLE:

AIR WEAPONS SYSTEMS TECHNICIAN

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: I’m Corporal Palmer Clements from Belleville, Ontario. I'm an Air Weapons Systems Technician currently posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.

Air Weapons Systems Technicians, or AWS Techs, work in the hangar and on the flight line, installing, repairing and testing the complex weapons systems on Canada’s fighter jets, maritime helicopters and long-range patrol aircraft.

They serve on bases across Canada, aboard ships with our maritime helicopters, and wherever our Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons deploy.

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: So as an Air Weapons Systems Technician, your primary job is going to be maintaining the aircraft – everything from the pilot that presses the button in the cockpit all the way down to the weapon station, to the weapon itself – all the systems, the computers, the functionals to do with that, then the actual air weapons loading. And then if they use those weapons, they get dropped, say, on the range and they don't go off, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal side of Air Weapons Systems is going to come into play and then it is our job as a trade to make sure that those things are safe.

AWS Techs posted to a fighter squadron work either on the flight line or in a second-line shop.  On the flight line, they do most of the loading of bombs, missiles and ammunition on the aircraft, as well as maintaining all of the systems on-board the aircraft that have to do with armament, including the gun system and the racks and launchers on the wings. In the shop, AWS Techs assemble and disassemble bombs and missiles and fill the ammunition karts that get delivered to the squadron. They also fill the chaff and flare pods.

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: So as a first-line Air Weapons Systems Technician, your day-to-day is going to be directly dictated by the flying schedule – whether they want two jets, four jets, 15 jets, they want chaff and flare in the jets, they want inert bombs, live bombs – whatever the pilots are calling for is your day-to-day objective.

At a long-range patrol squadron, AWS Techs load torpedoes and sonobuoys on the aircraft and maintain those systems. While AWS Techs assigned to a maritime helicopter squadron will spend time as part of the air detachment on a Royal Canadian Navy frigate on naval deployments around the world, loading torpedoes and sonobuoys.

As part of the air maintenance team, AWS Techs work alongside Avionics Systems Technicians, Aviation Systems Technicians and Aircraft Structures Technicians to make sure that every aircraft takes off with the ability to carry out its mission, and the firepower to back it up.

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: The expectation is perfection. I think in a lot of areas, civvy side and even in the military, getting things right most of the time is acceptable – with aircraft, especially with fighter aircraft, the margin for error is so small, the demands are high and perfection is the expectation.

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: The coolest part of the job definitely has to be the weapons side of things. It's what separates us from the rest of the air maintenance team. One of my favourite things to do, I think, would be going on temporary deployment. So we go for four to six weeks to different places. I've been to Alaska and to Florida. It's amazing to be able to pick up everything that we have and do the parts, the people, supply techs, administrative stuff and move it all somewhere else and perform the exact same – I think is quite the accomplishment on everybody's plate.

Once they complete their military and occupation training, Air Weapons Systems Technicians will be assigned to a squadron of CF-18 fighter jets at Cold Lake, Alberta, or Bagotville, Quebec or to one of Canada’s long-range patrol or maritime helicopter squadrons, where the aircraft also carry weapons. They’ll spend their first year working under the guidance of more senior members of their team.

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: When you get to your first posting, you're going to go on a servicing course, then you're going to get more of your maintenance courses. You’ll specialize in things like air weapons loading operations, wingman driver, crew chief courses, Explosive Ordnance Disposal. But the core of your day-to-day is going to be performing aircraft maintenance, regardless of what fleet you’re on. Therefore, attention to detail, relying on your more senior peers to teach you the way things are done, how they get done safely – attention to detail and safety being two of the biggest important things that we do as the air maintenance team – if it's not safe, then we're not going to do it.

CORPORAL PALMER CLEMENTS: Coming out of college, I knew I wanted to work as part of a highly specialized team that had a common goal and certainly being part of the air maintenance team, including the pilots and the administrative folks – I enjoy what I do here enough that I'm going to stay for as long as they let me.

I don't think that I can explain to anybody the feeling of the noise that comes from something like a fighter jet, being able to stand at the end of the runway when you're arming aircraft, for example, and have six, 12, 16 aircraft taking off – I think it’s something that gives you a sense of pride.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Aircraft Mechanics and Aircraft Inspectors
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technologists and Technicians
  • Explosives and ammunition magazine Supervisor

Training

The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Air Weapons Systems Technicians attend the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering in Borden, Ontario. This training takes approximately 32 weeks and includes:

  • Utilize Tools and Test/Support Equipment
  • Complete Aircraft and AMSE Records
  • Perform Flight Line Servicing Duties
  • Maintain Aircraft Weapon Systems
  • Perform Loading/Unloading Operations
  • Control Explosives Inventory
  • Store Explosives
  • Maintain Explosives and Ancillary Hardware
  • Operate Destruction Areas
  • Disposal of Surplus and Obsolete Ammunition

Air Weapons Systems Technicians may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Conventional Munitions Disposal (Advanced)
  • Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (Operator or Assistant)
  • Missile Maintenance Courses
  • Air Weapons Range Specialist
  • Instructional Technique
  • Aircraft Specific Type Courses
  • Life Cycle Material management

As they progress in their career, Air Weapons Systems Technicians who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Technical Administration
  • Leadership and Management Courses

Entry plans

The minimum required education to apply for this position is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondary IV in Quebec including Grade 10 General Math or Math 416 in Quebec. Foreign education may be accepted.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Reservists train with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required professional standards of the job. If additional training is required in order to acquire specialized skills, arrangements will be made by the home unit.

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts and are employed in the same unit and perform the same job. Air Reserve members usually serve up to 12 days per month in a regular work day, with opportunities to serve full-time for short durations as needed. They are paid 92.8 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.