December 23, 2006 (by Jennifer H. Svan) - Officials from the 35th FW said they are confident F-16s at Misawa can safely resume use of the BDU-33 based on findings of a nearly two-week investigation into the accidental dropping of the 25-pound dummy bombs in two recent incidents.
Misawa resumes the use of BDU-33 training munitions
"We didn't take any of this lightly by any stretch of the imagination, but we don't see any real need for any major changes," said Col. Rusty Cabot, 35th Operations Group commander.
Meanwhile, the investigation into a Nov. 29 incident in which a BDU-33 was dropped by an A-10 fighter from Osan Air Base, South Korea
, is ongoing, military officials there said Friday. In that accident, the training munition tore a path into a two-story wire factory in Eumseong. No workers inside the factory were injured.
At Misawa, the wing's safety probe revealed that the two northern Japan incidents were unrelated. Each involved different pieces of equipment, pilots and planes. No injuries or damages were reported in either case.
Cabot said a slow-burning cart- ridge is believed to have caused the first accidental drop on Nov. 15, when a BDU-33 landed in the Pacific Ocean after failing to release during a training run.
The firing mechanism didn't provide enough pressure to fully push the BDU off the suspension equipment, Cabot said, though it did likely dislodge it enough to let it fall over the water later.
The wing removed from service all cartridges with the same manufacturer's lot number and notified the Air Force of the cartridge malfunction, officials said.
In the Dec. 6 incident, in which another BDU-33 failed to release during training and later fell off while the jet landed at Misawa, the culprit appears to be a faulty release mechanism on the plane's bomb rack, Cabot said.
"We actually inspected (all) 46 racks," said Chief Master Sgt. Greg Eiler, 35th Maintenance Group wing weapons manager. "We found some minor things wrong, but none of the others experienced the same problems."
Any problems found were fixed, Cabot and Eiler said, and the wing is reviewing how the racks are stored and maintained to determine whether any procedures need to be changed.
The second incident prompted the wing to halt all BDU-33 training. But Cabot said following the thorough safety investigation, and after talks with community leaders and Air Force superiors, "we're good to fly with them again."
"We did whatever we could to make sure our operation here is as safe as possible," Cabot said. "We're confident we got it right."
But Misawa warplanes won't resume BDU-33 training until January, Cabot said, since "we just don't have a requirement to fly with them right now."