The U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Readiness program won the Aviation Week Overall Excellence Award 2021 during the annual Defense Chain Conference in Washington D.C., Oct. 20. Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, program executive officer for tactical aircraft programs (PEO(T)), accepted the award.
The esteemed Aviation Week Program Excellence Awards honors excellence in program leadership and this is only the third time in 17 years a program has won the Overall Excellence award.
The U.S. Navy’s work to improve F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler readiness led a monumental effort, Naval Aviation Enterprise-wide, to enhance readiness levels to the direct benefit of the fleet and in support of national security.
“The F/A-18 and EA-18G program has consistently demonstrated a commitment to delivering integrated warfighting capability that is dominant, affordable and available,” said Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, Naval Air Systems Command Commander, following the award announcement.
“With the increase in readiness numbers, we have increased our lethality and survivability and our ability to respond,” Gahagan said. “Intense collaboration across Naval Aviation and our industry partners, and the buy-in from the Sailors and maintainers was key to our success.”
To ensure the Navy’s workhorse of the carrier air wing — the Super Hornet — and the Growler remained mission capable, a number of reforms were implemented across key readiness-enabling commands, maintenance and supply depots, and other stakeholders and the Naval Sustainment System – Aviation (NSS-A) model was established in early 2019.
Prior to this focused approach, Super Hornet Mission Capable (MC) numbers hovered around 250-260 for nearly a decade and the Navy was tasked with meeting and sustaining MC rates of 80 percent, or 341, by the end of the fiscal year, per a Secretary of Defense mandate.
The F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) stepped up to lead the readiness recovery, becoming the first to use the NSS – A model. In the course of a year, and ahead of the mandate’s deadline, the unparalleled effort resulted in 379 mission capable Super Hornets – exceeding the mandated MC mark and attaining levels of readiness never before seen in the history of the program.
That 80 rate has been sustained since and many additional aircraft platforms have followed, leading to improvement across the Naval Aviation Enterprise.
Gahagan said while some of the methodologies used were truly a cultural shift, the value of setting up an environment that allows open communication among the stakeholders has become clear. Discussion and collaboration to tackle the brutal facts, find the root causes and creatively and systematically address them has been and will continue to be crucial to maintaining readiness.
Naval aviation has seen steady improvement to readiness across the board.
The Program Excellence Awards were established by aerospace and defense industry leaders in 2004 to share lessons learned and best practices throughout the industry to improve overall program performance. Nominated programs are evaluated by more than 150 subject matter experts and scored based on delivering value to the public good, their companies and their teams; dealing with complexity; organizational excellence; and defining forward-looking metrics that keep programs on track.