Radio receiver workload accelerates
May 3, 2007
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Tobyhanna will ramp up repairs to the R-1496A radio receiver to meet demands from Soldiers in the field.
Electronics mechanics here are overhauling the receiver, which is part of the AN/ARN-89 Direction Finder Set, found on rotary wing aircraft such as the Apache, Black Hawk and "Huey" helicopters. The AN/ARN-89 is a backup system that pilots use to get directions via radio signals from antennas.
Members of the Navigation Systems Branch, Command, Control and Computer Systems/Avionics Directorate, are scheduled to complete 20 systems a month for the rest of the fiscal year, according to Carrie Zukowski, general supply specialist, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J. "If current demands remain steady, the accelerated schedule could possibly stretch into fiscal year 2008," she said, adding that there are "thousands of receivers in use at this time on a great number of aircraft."
Four depot employees perform mechanical and electrical work on the receiver's four modules: goniometer, mixer, audio servo and power supply. The goniometer is a bearing indicator; the mixer filters, blends and amplifies frequencies to provide an audio signal and the audio servo amplifies both audio and servo drive signals. Mechanical work includes disassembling the receiver so it can be cleaned, and electrical work consists of testing the receiver and repairing all modules.
"The receiver is a vital piece of equipment," said [Hazleton resident] Tony Gentle, Navigation Systems Branch chief. "I have a great group of employees here who work hard to meet the customer's needs. There's a sense of purpose, because what we're doing impacts others."
The UH-60 Black Hawk provides air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support to combat stability and support operations. The AH-64 Apache conducts rear and close attack missions, including deep precision strike.
In addition, it also provides armed reconnaissance when required in day, night, obscured battlefield and adverse weather conditions. The UH-1H Iroquois Utility Helicopter, or "Huey," is a Vietnam-vintage multipurpose helicopter. The latest version was deployed to Southwest Asia to fly general support, air assault, cargo transport, aeromedical evacuation, search and rescue, and electronic warfare missions.
Gale Sokoloski [Olyphant resident] remembers working in this particular portion of the AN/ARN-89 overhaul process 18 years ago. "Different types of work have been done over the years as part of the overhaul program," said the electronics mechanic leader. "For as old as the system is, it's never gone off the market-it's still in demand."
Long-time employees suspect the AN/ARN-89 overhaul program has been a part of the depot workload for about 50 years. Today, mechanics are modifying the system by replacing a small bronze wheel on the 1A-4 goniometer with a larger wheel and replacing resisters and other components on a 1A-2 Circuit Card. The depot also adjusts every goniometer to a neutral setting. The customer will adjust the item to suit the aircraft once it's installed. "If the goniometer isn't adjusted correctly at Tobyhanna, then it won't work correctly when the customer installs it on the aircraft," Sokolowski said.
For two years, Anthony Drozdis [Archbald resident] has been troubleshooting and repairing the AN/ARN-89, including the electrical and final inspections. "The goniometer wheel has to be replaced with a larger-size wheel to allow a wider adjustment when compensating for different aircraft shapes," said the electronics mechanic, and "the 1A2 card in the audio servo needs to have different components upgraded. Dirt, sand and graphite can cause a receiver to malfunction, so mechanics use a variety of tools and solutions to clean the goniometer.
"Cleaning the goniometer is very important because if there is a lot of debris in the unit it can cause a crackling noise that the pilots will hear in their headsets or component failure," said [Scranton resident] Mark Staples, electronic mechanic helper. "I use alcohol, commercial cleaners, cotton swabs and razor knives to remove debris."
In addition, Staples replaces resistors, coils, servo motors and capacitors when required by unsoldering and soldering. "I also take care of the cosmetics of the case itself," he said. Coworkers agree that their job is rewarding and challenging even though the AN/ARN-89 is an older, back-up system. "We take great pride in knowing that warfighters can count on this back-up system," said Drozdis. "It allows them [pilots] to home in on a signal and guide the aircraft from any location in theater."
"I know one of the units I repair may save a Soldier's life or get a person out of a bind," Staples said. "Our back-up system works when all others fail."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 4,400 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.