U.S. NAVY CWO AVIATION ORDNANCE TECHNICIAN (AO) SOFT EPAULETS

One of the jobs for sailors in the Aviation Ordnanceman (AO) rating is Aircraft Armament Equipment (AAE) Technician. In addition to testing, repairing, and troubleshooting gun systems, bomb racks, and missile launchers, the AAE Technician who has reached the E7 is also tasked with requesting Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance (HERO) conditions.

First recognized in 1958, the issue of Hazard to Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance revolves around the effect of high-intensity radio frequency (RF) fields have on the electroexplosive devices (EEDs) or electrically initiated devices (EIDs) used in many modern ordnance systems. These are pyrotechnic devices that are activated by electrical energy.

And therein lies the problem. The energy from RF fields can enter a piece ordnance in a variety of ways and cause the EED to actuate, resulting in either the propellant being ignited or shorting the circuitry so the EED does not ignite when it should (“dudding”). In ordnance lacking a Safety and Arming device—or if the RF energy bypasses the device—there is a possibility that a piece or ordnance’s warhead itself could detonate.

With the burgeoning use of devices emitting RF fields—radars, sonars, sensors, and so forth—the need for specialists to monitor the resistance of ordnance to these fields has become increasingly vital for the safety of personnel and the ship itself. Exacerbating the problem is that many of the newer RF-emitting devices are more powerful than previous iterations.

Ordnance is now classified as either HERO Safe, Hero Susceptible, or HERO Unsafe; the commanding officer of each ship is responsible for implementing HERO requirements to ensure HERO Unsafe ordnance is not exposed to RF fields. Chief Aviation Ordnancemen serving as AAE Technicians play an important role in this process by requesting a breakdown of the HERO conditions and verifying that no ordnance is in a location (or is lacking protective materials) where it might be adversely affected.

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