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Radar maintenance leverages aircrew training

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- As a base that specializes in training pilots, boom operators and loadmasters, it is essential to keep the digital air surveillance radar working properly.

The 97th Communications Squadron is responsible for making sure the radar functions.

"It provides a visual picture of the airplanes flying around within a 60 nautical mile radius giving operations air traffic controllers the ability to see and direct the traffic in inclement weather conditions," said Stephen Dickson, who is an electronics technician for the 97th.

Dickson explained that a majority of the maintenance crew's daily work is made of preventative checks and repairs. This includes daily cleaning and checking signal levels, timing mechanisms, receivers and functionality of the motors. The crew also ensures the equipment is not damaged from dirt or heat.

"Like everything, maintenance is the backbone to it," said Dickson. "We come early in the morning before the airfield opens and go through a regimen and preventative maintenance schedule to ensure the equipment is operating."

Dickson and his team begin work at 6 a.m. to allow for the checks to be completed before the air traffic controllers start working.

Due to high wind speeds, the maintenance team checks the motors on the radar for wear and tear. They also lubricate the gears and perform regular oil changes.

"We ensure the radar is operational at all times," said Dickson. "We make sure the radar is ready when they need it, with as little down time as possible."

With equipment that plays such a vital role to the completion of the mission, it is important to keep it running smoothly.

"Without a radar, flying would be impossible during bad weather, and in the training aspect of it, you couldn't train pilots to fly in bad weather without it, so the fact that we teach people to fly planes, the mission of that radar is key," said Dickson.