As the Navy introduces new aircraft variants to bolster the fleet, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) continues to adapt its maintenance methods and practices to advance the delivery of these assets to ensure mission readiness.
One such aircraft serviced by FRCSW is the E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning system, the fourth variant manufactured by Northrop Grumman that was brought into service in 2010.
FRCSW performs two levels of periodic maintenance on the airframe: a light periodic maintenance interval one (PMI-1) and PMI-2, a heavy maintenance. The procedures are performed under a 96-month cycle: PMI-1 completed every 48 months, and PMI-2 48 months later.
FRCSW is the Navy’s sole provider of E-2D PMI-2 events, and on December 1, the command delivered its first E-2D to complete PMI-2 under the new 220-day turn-around time (TAT).
The maintenance event was completed five days early, and the aircraft was returned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Twenty (VX-20) based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
“Technically, this was the first of four aircraft for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. However, we completed eight in FY21, as well,” noted E-2/C-2 IPT Lead John Goolsby.
The E-2Ds are completely disassembled during PMI-2. Artisans evaluate, repair, and perform a complete wiring analysis of the aircraft. The aircraft’s corrosion preventive paint is also removed and an in-depth metal assessment targets cracks, corrosion, exfoliation and other surface anomalies. The aircraft are painted afterward.
“Once an aircraft is through with PMI repairs, a month-long functional check out is performed at the test line to include a functional check flight,” Goolsby said.
To ensure the best possible TAT for the E-2D, Goolsby said that the program initiated a few measures that were applied to the VX-20 aircraft.
“The E-2 program completely overhauled production flow and kitting to establish start and completion times for every part on the aircraft. We have a production tool very similar to a Buffer Management Tool that turns a part yellow if it’s within three days past due, and turns it red if it’s past three days due. Therefore, every part is tracked within three days of execution. This provided managers with a tool to manage the daily execution of the aircraft within three days of schedule,” he said.
“We also cleared out aged work-in-progress, and for the VX-20 aircraft, landing gear was provided and not repaired under the shadow of the aircraft,” he added.
To further ensure the 220-day TAT is achieved, Goolsby said that the program is currently working to have the fleet purchase landing gear for the aircraft.
“The PMI line can and will execute to a 220-schedule if aircraft are level loaded and material is provided. The Fleet Support Team, MRO-E and Components — the rotodome and landing gear shops — were instrumental in our achieving the 220 TAT. If they didn’t execute, we would not have achieved the goal. They are an integral part of the team,” he said.
“I am very proud of my E2/C2 team. They have embraced the Naval Sustainment System (NSS) principles and aggressively pursued our benchmark 220-day TAT goals to turn the first post-NSS E2D out in 215 days. The collaboration between FRCSW and our partners at TYCOM, COMFRC, PMA-231, WSS and DLA is what made this possible. This is the perfect example of how NSS provides timely readiness to the warfighter,” said FRCSW Commanding Officer Capt. Steve Leehe.
About 50 E-2Ds are active in the fleet today, and Goolsby said that the PMI induction rate of the airframe will likely “…ramp up to a steady state of seven a year as more aircraft are delivered to the fleet.”