An air weapons specialist is someone who 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 does not fail.
What does an Air Weapons Specialist do?
An air weapons specialist specializes 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. They 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, they 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, an air weapons specialist may 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. They 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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What is the workplace of an Air Weapons Specialist like?
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. Heavy objects may have to be manipulated and light or heavy tools operated. This is also a job that requires little supervision.
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.