by Lorra Lynch Jones, 13WMAZ.com
- "Behind the Lines" series continues with a look at the Sniper Pod repair unit at Robins Air Force Base.
- The unit in the 402nd Maintenance Wing is the only in the world of its kind.
- Confidential work, the group requires nine highly-skilled technicians to manage the $153 million, five-year contract.
The Sniper Pod repair unit at Robins Air Force Base is the only one of its kind in the world.
Going "Behind the Lines," 13WMAZ's Lorra Lynch Jones went inside with the help of the 402nd Maintenance Wing.
It takes the group of nine's precision skills to fine tune such an exacting weapon.
PHOTOS | Look 'Behind the Lines' at the Sniper Pod
Technician Tyler Barfield described it in plain terms: "Sniper is a target designation system. It goes on F15, F16, B1, B52, A10s."
But he said its complexities could fill novels.
"It's infrared, day and night-time TV. We can zoom in from 52 miles out. We can track six targets at one time."
Barfield could walk you through every inch of the weaponry, but you might get bored with the technicalities -- and he would get in trouble.
Much of what goes on in the Sniper Pod lab is classified.
He showed 13WMAZ as much as the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin, Sniper's maker, would allow.
Sniper is high-tech, high stakes, but the people working on it consider themselves "Regular Joes."
Sandra Hunter from Cochran changed careers mid-life after raising two boys.
Now a electronics technician, she said, "Every time I see on TV when a soldier has been injured, I think about my sons, and I feel the pain they feel."
She says the beauty of her work is that her skills help the soldiers over there.
Each coil of wire, every plate of metal helps the Sniper Pod take form.
Attached under the wing of an aircraft, its crystal lens and sapphire shroud stretch the limits of ground surveillance.
Barfield said, "We can view convoys on the ground. We can identify friendlies."
It can pin-point enemies with a laser. The Sniper Pod is so precise that its laser can lock onto a target and guide a missile to that location within an inch.
"If I was a troop on the ground, I would have special goggles, so I could see this laser marker, and I would be able to see this beam coming down from the air, and see something painted on the ground," Barfield explained.
He says that laser saves civilian lives, directing munitions at single enemies, instead of broad targets.
For Barfield, the big picture matters, but it's the individual stories that stand out.
He said, "There was a missing pilot that had ejected over the ocean. They deployed Sniper to find him. They found him out in the middle of the ocean."
To the 402nd EMXG, that means one life saved, one more airman coming home.
The contract value of the Sniper Pod work at Robins is $153 million over five years, according to Lockheed Martin.
For competitive reasons, they wouldn't share with 13WMAZ the price of each pod.