HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

Innovative temperature tool safeguards boosters

Shown is a tool developed to replace the current system monitoring temperatures of boosters in storage, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Shown is a tool developed to replace the current system monitoring temperatures of boosters in storage, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The current system has features from early 2000s, showing its age through faulty alerts and inability to cope with cold weather. (U.S. Air Force photo by Beau Wade)

Staff Sgt. Matthew Thorn, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron team chief trainer, stands next to a transporter-erector Jan. 30, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Thorn, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron team chief trainer, stands next to a transporter-erector Jan. 30, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Thorn developed a tool using modern technology to improve the quality of life of his wingmen and better protect boosters in storage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesdell)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson often emphasizes the importance of innovation and how it is needed to maintain a warfighting advantage. Innovation is essential and critical to lethality and readiness, an aspect of Air Force Global Strike Command's mission.

Airmen throughout the Air Force have been coming up with ideas to better their units and establish a new Defense Department norm.

Among those innovators is Staff Sgt. Matthew Thorn, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron team chief trainer.

"Thorn is one of the most mechanically-inclined people I've ever met," said Master Sgt. Kalton Nelson, 341st MMXS missile handling team noncommissioned officer in charge.

"His knowledge and understanding of all things mechanical is pretty incredible," he added.

As a member of a missile handling team, part of Thorn's mission is to monitor the temperatures of boosters in storage by using a temperature tool.

He also knew the tool needed an update as it was causing problems for personnel and he took steps to modernize it.

"The main fault with this system is the age, as it has been in use since the early 2000s," said Thorn.

Problems with the current tool

Firstly, motherboards within the temperature tool frequently malfunction and fail to send alerts when temperatures fall out of balance, which could pose a risk to the boosters.

"The temperature probes regularly go from 80 degrees to minus 20, too," said Thorn. "We would get constant false alerts and personnel would work all hours of the night."

In addition to costing manpower hours, the tool could pose a risk when it malfunctions and the booster would need to be sent out to be inspected for damage, at the cost of millions of dollars.

Other problems include the temperature tool losing programming memory and its roster of phone numbers. The cords on the tool are also too thick and would get damaged or cut by doors.

"Sometimes when the facility power goes out, it shuts down our telephone lines and doesn't allow the tool to operate during an emergency," Thorn added.

Out with the old, in with the new
As a solution for these problems, Thorn developed a new system.

He was so dedicated to figuring out how to fix the problems with the temperature tool, Thorn used his own money and bought a heating bulb for reptile enclosures to keep the project going, even when shop funding ran out.

"I took the unit and fully rebuilt it," he said. "I added power supplies and repurposed the alarm relay and turned on the heater inside the unit."

The biggest fix is the use of the lightbulb, which Thorn installed to keep the unit warm in Montana's cold weather. With the old temperature tool, cold weather would give false readings and set off alerts.

"I tested the new unit with the lightbulbs to determine the power needed to keep the unit warm while being exposed to Montana's cold elements," said Thorn.

The lightbulb solved that problem, and in the future it will have a custom-built heater to keep the temperature at or within a degree of what is set.

Power outages, a problem with the older unit, are no longer an issue since Thorn hooked up the new tool to a 4G LTE service.

Networked with the new system, a person can be in another country and still monitor temps, according to Thorn.

"NCOICs of the shop can control and monitor user's change control and watch temps over a long-range data-logging graph," he said.

"This new unit is not limited to sending just temperature readings," he added. "There are more than 100 other readings it can take and alert the team on."

Thorn hopes these modernization efforts will eventually become a DOD-wide norm. Ideally, he would like to supply all missile bases with the new tool.

"Going forward with this, I believe there will be more Airmen willing to look at a problem and see their own ways to improve and do so," said Nelson.

"Thorn loves problem-solving and jumps at the chance when he can help fix issues," he continued. "He has an incredible effect on the others in our shop."
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.