Pentagon officials get firsthand look at Naval Aviation’s future predictive capabilities

Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness Kristin French takes a looks at a damaged H-1 MGB component during a Jan. 27 presentation on how CBM+ can indicate MGB faults and fault progression earlier than previous methods.
Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness Kristin French takes a looks at a damaged H-1 MGB components.

February 16, 2017 – Four Pentagon officials met recently with Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR) Logistics and Industrial Operations (AIR-6.0) leadership to understand better how Naval Aviation is addressing readiness shortfalls.  They also learned more about how specific tools are transforming the way today’s platforms are sustained.

Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Logistics and Materiel Readiness Kristin French were briefed Jan. 25 and 27, respectively, on five AIR-6.0 initiatives during their visits.  Deputy to the ASD, Supply Chain Integration Dee Reardon and Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Maintenance Policy and Programs Ken Watson accompanied French.

In his remarks, Davis emphasized the importance of sustaining current inventory and the need to develop new approaches to do it effectively, because Marines will have to fly many of their current platforms through 2030 and beyond.

Sustainment and its costs, French said, must be considered at the beginning of each weapon system’s life cycle.  “Seventy percent of an aircraft’s cost is expended in sustainment.  Operating and support costs start as early as when someone gets an idea.  It’s a balance between funding and capability.  Prioritizing is a reality.”

Readiness playbooks assist program offices in prioritizing the two factors.  Developed for each type/model/series aircraft, they list initiatives and strategies to close ready basic aircraft (RBA) gaps and sustain readiness across the Future Years Defense Program.  “The initiatives in the playbooks are ready to be implemented once an opportunity for funding has been identified,” Industrial and Logistics Maintenance Planning Sustainment Department Director Tracy Burruss said.  “We know ahead of time where we would put the dollars.”

AIR-6.0 leadership discussed how another readiness enabling tool, Total Asset Visibility, will provide decision makers access to real-time data on the location, status and movement of material across the fleet.  “With Total Asset Visibility, we will have insight on where the material is located across the enterprise,” Deputy Assistant Commander for Logistics and Industrial Operations Todd Balazs said.  “We will also be able to see where the workforce is and what special skill sets they have regardless of site. With this capability, readiness will be supported from an enterprise perspective.”

Two predictive readiness tools were demonstrated during the event: the Readiness Forecast Model (RFM) and Predictive Analytics Model (PAM).  “RFM provides tactical information on the fleet’s current readiness and provides projections on what it is expected to look like in 12 months,” Aviation Readiness and Resource Analysis Department Director (AIR-6.8) Roy Harris said. “This sets expectations on aircraft readiness for the next year.  If readiness deviates from the plan, or we are not performing as expected, we can look into the data and see why.”

PAM, Harris said, projects the number of Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA) that will be available up to 10 years from now. “The tool quantifies how much RBA will be recovered on the flight line for each readiness initiative documented in program playbooks” he said.  “For instance, if we improve the reliability of a part, we can run an excursion and project the amount of RBA that will be recovered.  This helps program managers understand which initiatives provide the most readiness ‘bang for the buck’.  It also helps to better inform funding decisions on readiness initiatives for the POM [Program Objectives Memorandum] process,” he said.

NAVAIR mechanical engineer Allen Jones briefed Davis and French on Condition Based Maintenance (CBM), which is undergoing proof of concept in the CH-53E Super Stallion and MH-60R Seahawk communities.  It enables logisticians to manage and mine large volumes of data and can be used to improve maintainability and product design.

CBM plus (CBM+), Jones said, provides engineers with real-time data pulled from sensors embedded in components. “With this data, we know when to pull a component before it fails, avoiding added costs to the Navy,” he explained.  “In addition, life limits of components can be updated based on actual data, not assumptions made during the design phase.”

Proof of concept on CBM+ is being conducted on H-1’s main gear box (MGB) to reduce its high rate of removals due to quill failures in the gear.  Since May 2016, the CBM+ diagnostic maintenance strategy has avoided $4.8 million in MGB repair costs.

Presentations also included the Dynamic Scheduling Tool, which provides a list of tasks for each maintenance or repair event, including which parts, tools and artisan qualifications needed; Vector, a web-based data analysis tool that pulls from 19 maintenance, supply and inventory reporting systems, providing analysts and other Naval Aviation stakeholders and providers with a single source for actionable data; and additive manufacturing, a production process that uses computer automated design software to design a part and then adds layers of powdered metal, plastic, concrete or other materials to “print” it.

Davis said seeing and discussing AIR-6.0 tools designed to enhance leadership’s situational awareness, reduce program life cycle costs and improve decision-making capability caused him to reflect on the progress being made and on the work that still lies ahead.

“Marine Aviation’s Readiness Recovery Plan is very much a fluid, multi-faceted approach,” he said. “The knowledge gained from this visit affords me and my staff yet another opportunity to pause and re-assess whether or not we’re on track, and whether or not we’ve considered and incorporated all opportunities to further optimize our ability to “move the needle” as fast as we can, as far as we can, on the road to full recovery.”

He also believes that AIR-6.0 has a better understanding of issues that are unique to Marine Corps programs, such as the implications of having 77 different configurations of the MV-22 Osprey.  The proposed Common Configuration Readiness and Modernization Program—an initiative to have all V-22s with the same configuration—is designed to address that configuration challenge.

“Everyone involved in the readiness discussions were reminded of the difference between the Navy and Marine Corps readiness models and force structure,” Davis said.  The Marine Corps is smaller in total squadrons and structure, but in the big fight puts virtually all of its units into action very quickly.  That means that we need to ensure our flight lines have the prescribed numbers of full mission capable and mission capable aircraft ready to fight.  That is a very different position than the Navy’s tiered readiness model.  If everyone understands the difference, then we can make better informed decisions on where we need to focus our efforts and where we need to burn down risk.  The NAVAIR team is a key contributor to that effort.”

Reardon, who accompanied French, said that the thought and ingenuity AIR-6.0 put into the initiatives were impressive and had the potential to be applied to readiness challenges beyond the Navy. “I came here to seek out and encourage the proliferation of good ideas to improve readiness and sustainment across the DoD,” she said.  “You have figured out a way to determine what the priorities should be to maximize readiness.”

French said her original intention of the visit to NAVAIR was to learn about efforts to improve F/A18A-D Hornets’ RBA rates, but she came away with the understanding that Naval Aviation’s efforts extend to other platforms as well.

This opportunity, she said, provided her with the details she needed to better inform the Office of the Secretary of Defense leadership about Naval Aviation’s readiness enablers.  “You are increasing your savvy on how to measure and get at the problem, using data to drive your efforts,” she said. “With what I learned here, I am better able to be your voice across the entire portfolio of requirements.”