Getting Arrested - F-16 Tests Runway Cable System

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Ryan Roth
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
An explanation of what a BAK-12 is might as well be written in Greek for many people, but when explained using a comparison from the movie "Top Gun", it might be translated more clearly. The year was 1986. Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell circled the USS Enterprise as he prepared to land the aircraft. On the flight deck was a cable, tightly strung across the metal deck. As Maverick approached, he released an arresting hook from the rear of the aircraft. When the hook and cable connected, the system had one purpose: to safely stop the pilot and plane.

Just like on an aircraft carrier, a cable is run across most military runways to stop certain aircraft. Unlike an aircraft carrier, a Barrier Arrestment Kit-12 at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, Wis., is used only as a last resort when pilots are unable to stop an aircraft on their own.

Members of the 115th Fighter Wing from Madison, WI, and personnel from Volk Field CRTC barrier maintenance and fire department re-certified two BAK-12 systems during the October guard drill weekend here.

"Each BAK-12 must be certified once a year and put through a comparable test that it would receive in a real-world landing where an aircraft has difficulties stopping," said Master Sgt. Darrell Miller, a crew chief from the 115th FW.

A BAK-12, just like an aircraft carrier arrestment system, can save a life, prevent the loss of military equipment and give assurance to pilots should their aircraft experience maintenance issues.

"The BAK-12 has to accommodate all possibilities," said Lt. Col. Nick Radney, an F-16 fighter pilot from the 115th Fighter. "There are lots of different aircraft that use Volk Field. If an aircraft has an emergency situation, the pilot knows he will be able to stop the aircraft on the runway."

With a weight of 29,000 pounds and at a speed of almost 110 MPH, Colonel Radney and the F-16 he piloted came safely to a stop after both tests of the BAK-12, one on each end of the runway.

As a former Navy pilot of F-18 Hornets, Colonel Radney has experience using cables to land on aircraft carriers. Unlike a carrier landing, however, the F-16 came to a smooth stop over a distance of 1200 feet.
F-16s are unable to use a carrier-based arrestment system due to the design of the plane. A carrier arrestment system is designed to stop an aircraft in less than 350 feet. An F-18 is more bulky than an F-16, which gives the F-16 much better maneuverability but also makes it unable to take the strain of a carrier landing, said Colonel Radney.

The BAK-12 cable has to accommodate many different types of aircraft and many different speeds, whether it is a very light and small aircraft or a heavy aircraft fully loaded with fuel and munitions.
There are many aircraft that can utilize the barrier system should they need it, said Lt. Col. Radney. Included are planes with a tail hook system like the F-15 and F-16, and even many foreign aircraft, he added.

For a pilot, the BAK-12 gives peace of mind and ensures the plane will come to a safe stop.

"One of the great things about having the barrier system out there is that no matter what potential maintenance problem might occur, as long as I can get myself back to the field, I can get myself stopped with the arresting hook," said Colonel Radney. "Thankfully, I have never needed to use the arresting hook because of the fine maintenance crew and the quality of the F-16," he added.