49th CMS facilitates the production of hydrazine

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Ferrari
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

To enhance mission readiness, the 49th Component Maintenance Squadron facilitates the production of hydrazine, a colorless and highly reactive compound that is used for rocket fuel.

Hydrazine is a backup fuel used in F-16 Vipers. When it’s released, it creates a chemical reaction that allows pilots to manually maneuver the aircraft in order to land it safely in the event of certain in-flight emergencies.

“The role of hydrazine for the F-16s, a single engine fighter, is to provide an emergency backup system in case of hydraulic, engine, or electrical failure,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Etheridge, 49th Component Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems section chief. “The amount of hydrazine used is just enough to give the pilot time to get the aircraft’s systems up and running.”

Hydrazine plants require careful planning and engineering to ensure the safety of Airmen and the surrounding environment. Its production typically involves the reaction of ammonia with sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide and its reaction produces hydrazine hydrate, which is then purified and concentrated to produce the final product.

Hydrazine is a highly toxic and flammable compound that requires strict handling procedures and specialized equipment to prevent accidents and leaks.

“If you touch it, it absorbs very quickly and it’s very cancerous,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Glover, 49th CMS aircraft fuel systems craftsman. “That’s why we wear our protective gear such as; gloves, boots, a full suit, FireHawk mask, and air bottle.”

Typically, Holloman would ship bottles from a sister base, which requires paperwork, authorization, shipping, and months of waiting. Having a plant on base helps significantly reduce the cost of manual labor, manufacture and shipping, therefore, saving Holloman Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force time and money.

“Having the capacity to service our bottles here and have them ready to go in a couple of hours when we need them is amazing,” said Etheridge. “Not only will we service Holloman Air Force Base, but in the future, other bases are going to use us as well. It’s going to cause a lot more business for us.”