Quantcast Chapter 14 - Aircraft Loading and Unloading Procedures

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After aircraft ordnance and ordnance accessories have been tested, they are approved for carriage and for release by a particular model aircraft. Information about ordnance and ordnance accessories can be found in the aircraft's Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) flight/tactical manual. This manual is the basic authority for the types of ordnance and ordnance load combinations on each model aircraft. Deviation (change) from the basic authority must be approved before it can be made. The authority that approves deviations is the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

The types of aircraft ammunition and armament equipment were covered in previous chapters. In this chapter, you will learn about loading and unloading ammunition and other armament equipment onto the aircraft.


LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Identify requirements in airborne weapon/stores loading manuals as they pertain to loading and unloading aircraft ashore and afloat.

The Airborne Weapons/Stores Loading Manual, known as the Loading Manual, standardizes loading procedures used throughout the Navy and Marine Corps. It improves safety and reliability in the loading of conventional weapons and airborne stores. You must follow the loading procedures in the Loading Manual. If there is a conflict between the Loading Manual and another publication, follow the procedures in the Loading Manual until NAVAIRSYSCOM solves the conflict.

The procedures in the Loading Manual are followed during aircraft loading. However, the physical size of the manual makes it impractical for use on the flight line. Therefore, the actual aircraft loading procedures for a weapon/store are condensed into an airborne weapons/stores checklist. An individual checklist is provided for each type of weapon/store to be loaded. This includes release and control system checks, retarded/nonretarded bombs, fire bombs, pyrotechnics, and laser-guided bombs. Each member of the loading crew does not need a copy of a checklist during loading operations. However, crew leaders MUST use a checklist for the particular weapon/store being loaded.

Checklists are not complete guides. They must be used only by experienced crew leaders that have thorough knowledge and understanding of the loading manual. Each checklist contains a required reading section that each member of the loading crew must understand before starting loading operations. To keep these loading manuals and checklists current, you should use the Airborne Weapons/Stores Publication Index, NAVAIR 01-700. This index provides activities with a guide that lists all existing changes or revisions for aircraft conventional weapons loading, release and control, airborne weapons support equipment (AWSE), chemical, and weapon assembly or disassembly checklists and manuals on hand. This publication index is updated quarterly.


LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Identify the requirements in airborne weapons/stores loading manuals and the NATOPS manuals.

The NATOPS manuals are issued by the authority of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in conjunction with the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) program. The NATOPS manuals contain the best available operating instructions for most circumstances. The NATOPS is regulatory in nature; however, operational necessity may require modification of the procedures contained in it.


When you are involved in weapons loading and flight deck or flight line operations, there are certain weapons terms that you must know. Some of the more common terms are contained in Appendix I of this training manual.


Airborne weapons handling evolutions (loading/unloading) introduce a degree of risk into shore based and carrier based operations. They require careful planning and preparation. The necessity to train for and conduct combat operations creates risks that cannot be avoided when explosive weapons are handled.

Weapons Loading and Downloading

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the preferred area to load or download an aircraft. Normally, the rearming area is adjacent to and aft of the island structure on the flight deck. When operationally necessary, however, the ship's commanding officer (CO) may authorize loading or downloading on the ship's bow while cyclic flight operations are in progress. Only a minimum quantity of weapons should be moved toward the ship's bow.

Loading limited amounts of weapons on the hangar deck may be authorized by the CO when operationally necessary. However, this adds an additional risk of fire because there is both fuel and explosives in a confined area. Only aircraft scheduled for the next launch or an alert condition are authorized for loading on the hangar deck. Authorization is also restricted to the particular weapons shown in table 14-1.

According to the CV NATOPS Manual, fueling, loading and downloading weapons, and installing fuzes and arming wires simultaneously are authorized. However, you can't load forward-firing ordnance that requires simultaneous and/or prior electrical connections for loading while aircraft fueling is in progress. Don't make other electrical connections to weapons or remove/install impulse cartridges while aircraft are being fueled. Don't position the fuel hoses under the weapons/stores being loaded/downloaded.

When required, you may apply electrical power to the aircraft during a loading/downloading evolution. However, it should be held to a minimum, and it should be consistent with operational requirements. Don't apply electrical power to the armament or weapon release-and-control circuitry while weapons are being loaded/downloaded. Conduct loading/downloading weapons and oxygen servicing (other than the converter replacement at the aircraft) as separate evolutions.

Arming and Dearming

Arm airborne weapons in the designated rearming area or the arming area. Generally, all weapons (except for forward-firing ordnance) are armed in the rearming area. This is done after engine turnup but before the aircraft is taxied. Weapons that are armed in the rearming area include retard/nonretard bombs, CBUs, and fire bombs. These arming functions are normally performed by the squadron's ordnance loading crew.

Aircraft loaded with forward-firing ordnance, such as aircraft guns, rockets, and missiles, are positioned in the arming area to arm the weapons. When the aircraft is located in the arming area, optimum safety is provided because the area directly in front of the aircraft is unobstructed by structures or personnel.

Arming functions are normally performed by the carrier air wing (CVW) arm and dearm crew (or MAG personnel on LFORM class ships) in the arming area under the supervision of the CVW ordnance officer. The crew is composed of ordnancemen from each squadron within the CVW. They are cross-trained and certified to arm and dearm all types of aircraft aboard the ship. The crew members work in their respective squadrons except during actual aircraft launch and recovery operations.

Airborne weapons are dearmed in the designated dearming area before or immediately after engine shutdown. All forward-firing ordnance is dearmed by the CVW arm and dearm crew before engine shutdown. All other ordnance is safed or dearmed by squadron ordnancemen in the dearming or rearming area after engine shutdown.

When arming or dearming an aircraft, aircraft arming and safing signals (tables 14-2 and 14-3) are used when crew members perform the arm and dearm procedures. These signals are used by both the squadron and CVW arm and dearm crews. Arming or dearming aircraft is conducted only when the aircraft is at a complete stop, and control of the aircraft has been turned over to the arming crew supervisor.

Hung or Unexpended Weapons

The CVW aircraft dearming supervisor is always on the flight deck during recovery operations. By being there, he makes sure that the aircraft directors and the dearming crew coordinate their actions. The dearming supervisor tells the aircraft director which aircraft requires safing before it is taxied to the recovery spot.

Table 14-1.-Weapons Loading, Strikedown, Downloading, and Recovery Guide

Table 14-2.-Aircraft Arming Signals

Table 14-2.-Aircraft Arming Signals.-Continued 14-5

Table 14-3.-Aircraft Safing Signals 14-6

At times, aircraft return to the ship with hung or unexpended weapons. When this happens, the flight leader advises cognizant personnel aboard ship of the total quantity and type of hung or unexpended weapons on aircraft in that flight. As each of these aircraft approaches the ship, the air officer (air boss) announces the model and type of weapon problem over the flight deck announcing system.

After landing with hung weapons and/or forward-firing weapons, the aircraft is normally safed after taxiing clear of the landing area. However, at the discretion of the air officer, it may be safed in the landing area. Aircraft returning with unexpended weapons should be safed according to normal procedures.


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