Explosive Safety

It's everyone's business!















* * * Safety is paramount * * *

Don't Let The Beast Get You Down

Repost of article written by AO1 James Melton "Mech Nov/Dec 1992"

Yankee Station, North Vietnam. I was a green AOAN on my first cruise with a hard-charging Intruder squadron. Our workdays usually ran at least 14 hours. I was part of a three-man crew with another AOAN and a salty A02 as the safety man. We were tired and dirty because the airwing was flying alpha strikes almost around the clock. The fast tempo and huge quantities of ordnance we were loading made the flight deck even more dangerous than usual.

One. night, our flight crews were targeting radar sites deep inside enemy territory. We were loading each bomber to the max with Shrike and Rockeye weapons. Each squadron armed and de-armed its own aircraft. Everyone took turns at arming and de-arming and there seemed to be an axiom back then that all tasks must be done in the most difficult and inconvenient manner possible. Our birds were scattered all over the flight deck. We would arm on Cat 1, then run like crazy to catch another bird on Cat 4, boogie back to Cat 2, and so on.

We did a lot of work at night and went through flashlight batteries fast. Maintenance control, in an effort to curb the misuse of batteries for personal items such as cassette players, controlled the issue of batteries. You could only get new ones on a one-for-one exchange.

The exchange was usually accompanied by a barrage of questions from the maintenance chief about our intended use of the replacement batteries and a lecture on the cost. It was a pain in the rear. The batteries in my flashlight were weak, but I decided to stretch them out and keep on stroking rather than run down to maintenance control for a lecture.

Our crew had worked its way into a groove; we were getting our Intruders off the pointy end of the ship fast. This routine and my weak batteries almost made my next of kin financially secure. Phantoms, Corsairs, and Intruders were catapulting into the darkness with impressive regularity.

We completed arming an A-6 on Cat 2, just as another taxied into position on Cat 3. As we ran down the deck to intercept our waiting bird, our safetyman shouted instructions. I was to arm the port-side weapons.

As we approached, the yellow-shirts motioned us to hurry up. Gee whiz! We couldn't run any faster. Obviously patience is not an ABH's strong suit. With flashlight in hand, I crossed over the catapult and under the nose of our Intruder.

I was in the shadow of the port wing with the lights from the island in the background. I could see only silhouettes. I was going to have to depend on night-wand signals from my safetyman.

I placed my right hand -on the nose of a Shrike and squatted to look under the belly of the aircraft to locate my safetyman. I couldn't see him. I remember sensing movement near the nose mount, but my attention was on trying to spot the red wands with black stripes of my safetyman.

Suddenly, I had a massive increase of pucker-factor. The aircraft was powering-up and going into tension! I looked up the cat-track and saw the cat officer getting ready to launch the aircraft with me under it.

I tried desperately to signal the cat officer with my flashlight, but, you guessed it, my flashlight had died. I tried yelling, but no one could hear me over the roar of the engines, and where I had positioned myself, no one could see me in the darkness.

When the cat officer began lowering his green wand to the deck, I made a most spectacular blind dive into the port catwalk. My take-off was respectable, but my hang-time minimal and my landing was unimpressive.

Dazed from my close call and abrupt deceleration at the bottom of the catwalk, I meekly raised my head above the scuttle. The first thing noticed was that the plane was gone. For some reason, the old magicians phrase of "Now you see it, now you don't," raced through my mind.

The second thing I noticed was every yellow-shirt on the flight deck descending upon me. Screaming and swearing with much enthusiasm, the yellow-shirts took turns grabbing and shaking me. The gist of the abuse questioned my mental reliability and whether my parents had been married at the time of-my conception.

As I was being manhandled and abused, I made a vow that, if I survived the wrath of these yellow-shirts, my so-called safetyman would get a butt whopping he'd never forget.

As soon as I was able to escape the angry mob of yellow-shirts, I made a dash for our ready room and told the duty officer that two of his buddies were flying into combat with only half their ordnance armed - a confession that isn't for the faint hearted.

Later, the safetyman and I sweated humbly through the inevitable rage of the chief and gunner. The gunner figured out the chain of events that had almost lead to my demise.

The safetyman had given the arming signal upon reaching the aircraft I didn't see the signal because I was still getting into position. The AOAN on the starboard side armed his weapons and left the aircraft with a thumbs up. The safetyman assumed I had armed my weapons and exited to port to take cover in the catwalk. Even though he didn't see me signal that the aircraft was armed and that I was clear, he gave the pilot a thumbs up and turned control of the aircraft over to the yellowshirts. I was still under the aircraft waiting for a signal that had already been given.

If I'd had working batteries in my flashlight, I'd have been able to signal the cat officer to stop the launch. Or I could've armed the ordnance and that aircrew would not have flown a combat mission with only half their weapons armed.

Every ordnanceman likens the flight deck to a lurking beast, waiting to pounce on the unwary.

Don't let the beast get you.

Explosive Safety Trivia

The Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography was established on August 31, 1842 and changed to the Bureau of Ordnance (BUORD) on July 5, 1862. The Bureau of Ordnance was abolished on August 18, 1959 when its functions were transferred to the Bureau of Naval Weapons (BUWEPS). The Bureau of Naval Weapons was abolished when the Naval Systems Commands stood up in 1966.

Army and Navy Explosive Safety Board

The Army and Navy Explosive Safety Board was established on May 29, 1928. The Army and Navy Explosive Safety Board was reconstituted as a joint board of the Department of the Army, Navy and Air Force and became known as the Armed Services Explosive Safety Board on September 16, 1948.

Department of Defense Explosive Safety Review Board (DDESB)

The Department of Defense Explosives Safety Review Board (DDESB) was established Oct. 27, 1949 and had the authority to establish safety standards and make changes to those standards. In 1975, the Navy member and alternate member of the DDESB were located in OPNAV OP-04/411 as part of the Naval Explosive Safety Improvement Program (NESIP). Subsequent to 1975 they were located at COMNAVSEASYSCOM.

Ordnance Pamphlet (OP) 5

The first Ordnance Pamphlet (OP) 5, Ammunition and Explosives Ashore, was established by Article 76 of U.S. Navy Regulations on October 1, 1920.

General Responsibilities

Department of the Navy: The CNO is designated to act for the Secretary of the Navy in validating the necessity for the issuance of waivers of, or exemptions from, DoD explosive standards with in DON and authority for approving or disapproving, and monitoring the use of, such waivers and exemptions. Authority is granted to CNO to make further delegation of waiver/exemption authority to the DCNO Logistics with authority to re-delegate, as appropriate. The appropriate Navy or Marine Corps commander, for operational or support requirements in forward areas during combat operations. (SECNAVINST 8023.3C).

U.S. Navy:

CNO exercises general supervision and command authority for the application of technical guidance prepared by COMNAVSEASYSCOM. DCNO for Logistics (N-4) is responsible for supervising U. S. Navy explosive safety matters. Under DCNO Logistics COMNAVSEASYSCOM is tasked to establish, issue standards & criteria, provide technical guidance and assistance to all components of DON. NAVSEA is the central POC for explosive safety matters. (OPNAVINST 8023.2C)

U. S. Marine Corps:

CMC has established an ammunition and explosives safety program for Class V. SecDef has established basic explosive safety policies which are observed by the DoD components in the operation of ammunition and explosives. It is the policy of SecNav that the policies of SecDef be followed by the DON to the maximum practical extent. It is the policy of the CMC that the instructions of CNO in these matters be followed by the Marine Corps to the maximum extent possible, unless specifically exempted. This document serves as amplification to those pertinent Navy regulations and, in some cases, either establishes more stringent regulation, or exempts the Marine Corps as specified. (MCO 8020.10)

General Responsibilities Naval Ordnance Center: COMNAVSEASYSCOM has authorized the Naval Ordnance Center to manage and represent the SYSCOM on all related matters that deal with explosive safety. Establish and implements technical standards regulations, instruction, and publications for Navy Explosives Safety Programs. Review all requests originating within DON for exemptions and waivers from established explosives safety criteria and advises CNO as to the technical validity of such requests. Conduct Explosive Safety inspections of all ships and shore activities where ordnance is handled or stored to assure compliance with appropriate directives. (NAVSEAINST 5450.72)

Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity (NOSSA): The Naval Ordnance Center (NOC) was disestablished several years ago and replaced in Oct 1999 with the Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity. You can read about the NOSSA at their public website: http://www.nossa.navsea.navy.mil/

General Responsibilities Naval Safety Center: Maintains the Navy's only EMR/CODR mishap data bank. Authors and edits for technical accuracy explosive safety subjects based upon developing trends and other articles of general interest to the ordnance community. (Current Charter of Explosive & Weapons Systems Safety)

General Responsibilities DDESB: Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board, establishes explosive safety standards to be observed through DoD & advises SecDef & each DoD Component. Safety standards established under authority of joint board must be considered binding, but only as minimum safety standards. A 0-6 or senior member from each service makes up the board. The Secretary of the Army shall provide administrative support for the DDESB and its secretariat to include budgeting, funding, and any other required administrative services. The Assistant Secretary of Defense shall have principal OSD responsibility for the DDESB. NAVORDCEN provides technical review for CNO on all facility site plans prior to forwarding to the DDESB. (Title 10 U.S.C. Section 172, Oct. 29, 1949/Department of Defense Directive Nov. 25, 1983 (new directive in draft)/OPNAVINST 8023.2C/NAVSEAINST 5450.72)

WSESRB: Weapons Systems Explosive Safety Review Board, reviews the explosives safety of weapons or explosive systems and makes appropriate recommendation to the cognizant Naval Systems Command or program manager responsible for the system or material under review. The board is headed by a member of the COMNAVSEASYSCOM and consists of representatives from the appropriate Systems command and other commands as necessary. NAVORDCEN provides the chair and the secretariat for the CNO- mandated WSESRB. (OPNAVINST 8023.2C /NAVSEAINST 5440.72 )

NESIP: Naval Explosive Safety Improvement Program, conducts explosive safety studies, surveys and reviews. CNO passed this task to COMNAVSEASYSCOM for action. (OPNAVINST 8023.2C)

AMHAZ: Ammunition and Hazardous Material, NAVORDCEN provides the chair and technical representative for the CNO-mandated Ammunition and Hazardous Materials (AMHAZ) Handling Review Board. (NAVSEAINST 5440.72)

HERO: Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance, NAVORDCEN acts as the Navy's technical authority for Hero safety issues, and for lightning and electrostatic safety of weapons systems ashore and afloat. (NAVSEAINST 5440.72)