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Innovation inspires projects like bomb-loading BAMA

  • Published
  • By Lewis Lambert
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Global Strike Command’s B-1 Command Armament System Manager, Master Sgt. Andrew Cherry, recently approved a new piece of equipment that reduces the time to load the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile AGM-158s on the B-1 Bomber. It is called the Bomber Aluminum-rail-set Multi-purpose Adapter, or BAMA.

One may ask after more than 12 years of loading missiles on a B-1 why someone hadn’t suggested a better way to load bombs before 2021.

“Years ago, you were not supposed to think of innovation,” said Tech. Sgt. Cedric de Bourbon-Poisson, 7th Maintenance Group Weapons Standardization B-1 weapons technician.  “You do the job and that was it. In the last five years, we have encouraged our Airmen to think outside the box. The current generation of loaders are innovating better processes and tackling implementation. We are the generation growing up in ‘Accelerate change or lose’ doctrine, and are required to think about innovation to win the next major conflict.”

When preparing to load weapons on a B-1, the 7th Munitions Squadron prepares the missiles and uses a forklift to place munitions on the trailer, and then sends the trailer to the bomb loaders. Before introducing BAMA, the trailer was too low to the ground, about four feet, and as a result weapon loaders had to use two hydraulic bomb lift trucks to accomplish munitions transfer and loading procedures. One bomb lift truck raised the casket to a certain height and transferred it to a second bomb lift truck that loaded the missiles into the B-1’s weapons bays. Neither bomb lift could substitute for the other.

De Bourbon-Poisson and his section came up with the idea to place the missiles on aluminum rails on a trailer to reduce the need for two bomb lifts. BAMA is a jack system, used with the Aluminum Rail Set system, which stands about six feet from the ground so only one bomb lift truck is required. This cuts bomb lift truck requirements by 50 percent, enabling other career fields the opportunity to utilize the lift trucks for their tasks. It also reduces the load time by about two hours per B-1, creating a positive snowball effect during time-sensitive generations.

However, the design lingered in limbo for a long time until Chief Master Sgt. Steven Edmonds, 7th MXG wing weapons manager, reported to Dyess Air Force Base last spring. After Edmonds arrived, he received his orientation briefing where he learned about the BAMA need and the project’s stagnation. He took the lead on finishing the development, coordinating with Cherry, the system program office, and Munitions Material Handling Equipment to bring the BAMA’s field testing to completion. 

Munitions Material Handling Equipment Focal Point at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, manufactured the BAMA and delivered it to Dyess for testing, evaluation and validation in January 2022. Cherry traveled from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, to Dyess to complete the testing. The test was successful. Cherry then returned to Barksdale and began the approval process. As a result, the BAMA will be mass-produced by Air Force Material Command engineers at Eglin in July 2022. The 7th Bomb Wing and the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, will each get 12 BAMAs in the summer.

Today’s Air Force has created an environment where there is importance and emphasis placed on innovation, with modernization being a top-four line of effort for all installations within Air Force Global Strike Command.

During his first meeting with his Airmen after assuming command in 2021, Col. Joseph Kramer, 7th Bomb Wing commander, asked, “How many of you are leaders?”

Initially, only a few hands went up. Most Airmen probably thought a leader had to be in charge of someone.

“You are all leaders,” Kramer said. “If not of someone else, certainly of yourselves.”

Airmen are encouraged to be leaders, creators and innovators. It doesn’t have to be a new invention to be innovative, it could be an improvement to an existing process, like BAMA.

Like Army Gen. George Patton, esteemed World War II general, once said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”