Aircraft Battle Damage Repair

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origami F-15

Aircraft battle damage repair (ABDR) is the "quick fix and get it in the air again" brand of aircraft repair. Since the Air Force has been working on this program for over a decade, it has progressed beyond "chewing-gum-and-bailing-wire" fixes.

In Viet Nam, many F-4s damaged in battle (the ones that made it back to base and landed) were fixed quickly, with nonstandard fixes. These were studied, and a program was begun to standardize such quick fixes. Combat Logistics Support Squadrons (CLSSs) were tasked with the job of learning to deal with repairing aircraft in, shall we say, less than ideal situations--while wearing chemical warfare gear and gas masks, out in the field where there's not a lot of materiel support, and perhaps under fire!

Over the years, the Air Force developed Technical Orders (TOs) to describe nonstandard quick repairs that could be made on the aircraft. But in the earlier days of the program, the sky was the limit! I once (in a practice session) spliced a wire and shielded it with a foil gum wrapper--and since the shielding conducted current as it should, it was declared a good repair. I don't know how it would have held in a plane flying a combat mission, though.

Nowadays, the program trains maintenance technicians to read the specialized ABDR TOs and assessors to look at the damage, figure out if the damage can be repaired in a specified time period, decide what materials need to be used in the repair, and write instructions for the technicians, telling them exactly how to make the repair. I teach ABDR assessor classes, and our instructors have come up with some fiendish damages (on aircraft hulks) for the practice sessions. We started out using wire cutters and sledge hammers, and are now using shaped charges and rifle bullets to cause the damage--more realism. It's incredible how far and wide shrapnel can travel!

Julia West

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