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Avionics technicians provide brains behind brawn

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Air Force avionics technicians provide the brains behind the brawn that keeps the F-15 Eagle flying.

Despite its size, nearly 64 feet from nose to tail and almost 43 feet from wingtip to wingtip, the F-15 is a highly maneuverable mechanical monster in the air.

Capable of reaching speeds in excess of 1,800 mph, this speed demon has been a premiere fighter in the Air Force's arsenal for more than 40 years, maintaining air superiority over the battlefield with a perfect kill-loss ratio.

However, avionics technicians help ensure these aircraft are always prepared and ready for flight.

"For our pilots to be able to fly, fight and win, they need the best and most reliable aircraft with the most advanced avionics systems," said Tech. Sgt. Luis Marrero, the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit assistant specialist section chief. "That's exactly what we provide."

Avionics specialists are the experts for practically every electronic system within the jet that provides information on altitude, range or location.

Though the first generations of the C and D model aircraft entered the force in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Air Force has upgraded many of these components to make the aircraft that much more lethal over the battlefield.

"For the F-15, it's all integrated, everything from communication to navigation and radar," said Senior Airman Caleb Stephens, a 67th AMU avionics specialist. "We don't put the upgrades in, but once they come out, they're 100 percent our responsibility. So far, the upgrades are very maintenance friendly; they're durable and reliable."

For seemingly countless hours, the avionics systems maintainers troubleshoot and correct bugs in the systems.

Frequently, the problems are small and quick to fix, but some days bring about new puzzles to challenge the technicians, often leading to extensive troubleshooting, part replacement and a lot of head-scratching.

"There's a lot going on with the jets, so you have to know how things work together so that if something isn't working correctly, you know where to start looking to try and fix the problem," Stephens said.

Despite its complexities, Marrero said getting the job done makes it worthwhile.

"I love to see the satisfaction on the faces of my technicians when they return an aircraft to service and it accomplishes its mission," Marrero said. "It feels great when you know you provided the best aircraft for our pilots to be able to complete the mission."