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ARMING THE HAWK MISSILE

By: TD Barnes

While stationed at Fort Bliss I somehow became the "guy" to disarm the igniter of SAM missiles failing to fire when launched from the McGregor Range and from the White Sands Missile Range. Over time disarming the ignition of a dud missile became routine to me. About that time I deployed to the Czech border of West Germany with the first Hawk missile unit ever deployed for combat. This was just after the Gary Powers incident and it was feared we were about to be engaged with the Soviets.hawk missile Though we had quit flying the U-2 over the USSR after the Powers shoot down, we (or someone) was still flying recce missions over the USSR. As the unidentified plane emerged out of the USSR territory our missile unit would go hot until the identity of the advancing plane could be determined by our Air Force guys intercepting it at the border. Naturally I was the chosen one who armed the missiles and then disarm them when we got the all clear.
 
To arm a Hawk missile the procedure was to remove a small cover on each missile and insert an igniter. Sort of like a blasting cap to ignite the propellant fuel. It was a long, circular tube of explosive ignited by voltage. We called it a "donkey dick."
 
I had a short, timid little black PFC for an assistant to hold my voltmeter during the procedure. He would very nervously hold the voltmeter while I checked for the presence of stray voltage before plugging the igniter wiring to the donkey dick. He was a great kid, but had an extreme distrust and fear of the missiles that I shamelessly enjoyed exploiting.
 
The Hawk missiles were mounted three on a launcher. Two of them I could arm while standing on the launcherlauncher, but the third one sat above the others so to arm it I would climb aboard and sit astride like a cowboy while removing the cover and inserting the donkey dick. For the third missile my assistant had to follow me by climbing up on the launcher so the leads from the voltmeter would reach the igniter plug.
 
On this particular day we had armed the lower missiles and finished up checking for stray voltage on the third one. My nervous assistant was anxiously and rapidly descending from the launcher when he stepped on the handle of a large foam fire extinguisher attached to the launcher. It let out a big whooooosh just as I plugged the igniter wires to the missile igniter. Both of us thought we'd just launched the missile. It took a week to get my legs relaxed from around the missile enough for me to dismount and I don't think they've found my assistant yet. He broke all records for bugging out.




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