An air weapons specialist evaluates, installs, tests, and maintains the wide variety of systems used in aerial weapons. They make sure that when a pilot pulls a trigger, it is right on target and without fail.
Air weapons specialists specialize in one kind of weapon, and it can cost thousands of dollars to train an individual. Most weapons have electronic components to locate targets, then aim and fire the weapon. Specialized knowledge is required to operate technical equipment, resolve complex problems, and provide and interpret information. These are the people who put the "bomb" into "bomber."
Air weapons specialists store, service, inspect, and handle all types of aerial weapons and ammunition and their launchers. Ammunition includes rockets, missiles, and torpedoes, and can vary from small arms ammunition to nuclear weapons. An air weapons specialist might also deal with systems unrelated to weapons such as aircraft fire extinguishing systems and ejection seats. In the United States Navy, air weapons specialists can volunteer as naval aircrew. With further training, air weapons specialists can qualify as a demolition operator to safely dispose of unexploded ordinance, and it is possible for them to specialize even further to handle improvised explosive devices. In carrying out their duties, they also come across classified materials which makes their work very sensitive.
If an air weapons specialist works with nuclear weapons, they will need steady nerves and the utmost mental discipline, as they will be working not only with delicate materials, but a major element of a nation's defence that simply cannot be allowed to fail. Air weapons specialists receive advanced training and their weapons take the form of gravity bombs, cruise missiles, and multiple warhead ICBMs.
Air weapons specialists must often interact with other specialists, officers, aircrew members, and civilian staff. A strong team-based culture results from the nature of their work. Air weapons specialists are one of the few specialties of the U.S. Navy to have their own association, the Association of Aviation Ordnancemen.
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Basic military training will be necessary to become an air weapons specialist, which takes eight weeks in the case of the United States. After that there are between fifteen and twenty-five weeks of classroom instruction. A great degree of manual dexterity and physical coordination are required and the skill of assembling and disassembling weapon components is essential. A person who is interested in working with guns and explosives would be suited for this position.
Air weapons specialists must have an above-average competence with tools, equipment and machinery. They must be creative and resourceful. Mathematical skills and logical reasoning ability are also essential for this job. In addition to these skills and traits, air weapons specialists must understand electronic and mechanical principles and concepts.
Other important skills required are record keeping and attention to detail, since their work is detailed and repetitive. Air weapons specialists must also have full field vision, along with normal depth and colour perception and hearing. Accuracy of movement is certainly required, but rapid reactions and speed of movement are not. In all circumstances, it will be necessary to remain calm under stress. Air weapons specialists must give their full attention to other people and take the time to understand the points these people are trying to make, asking questions when appropriate but not interrupting. They must monitor their own performance and that of other people or organizations. They must use logic and reasoning to identify the optimal solution to a problem. They will have to observe dials, gauges, or other indicators. They must understand the relevant equipment and procedures to ensure that safety is maintained.
Where possible, air weapons specialists work in shelters such as hangars and workshops; these shelters can be climate-controlled, but frequently, work is outdoors in inclement weather conditions. Naval air weapons specialists work at sea. Air weapons specialists may have to work from a cramped, confined, or otherwise awkward position. Light may be poor, the environment may be noisy, and there could be significant vibration. It may also be necessary to work overseas. Before embarking on this career, a candidate needs to understand that serious injury or death can occur due to explosives, electricity, toxic materials, radiation, and cryogenic liquids. Mishaps can also be costly, hence care must constantly be taken. Personal protective garments are provided as necessary, and their use is always enforced. Heavy objects may have to be manipulated and light or heavy tools operated. This is also a job that requires little supervision. An air weapons specialist should be prepared for strange encounters in the field; a number of U.S. nuclear weapons specialists have testified that they witnessed UFOs while on an assignment.