Collaboration Seeks to Reduce Air Force Maintenance Costs

The US Department of Defense’s most versatile helicopter, the Black Hawk, and its close cousins, other H-60 variants, perform multiple missions: delivering and rescuing warfighters in combat zones, protecting aircraft during armed assault missions, providing aerial firefighting, patrolling borders, bringing critical supplies to civilians during natural disasters, and transporting dignitaries.

With more than 5,000 in service worldwide, the Black Hawk primarily serves the US Army, but it is also used by other services including the Air Force. To complete timely repairs, the DOD needs to solve numerous logistical challenges including ensuring the accuracy of forecasting methodologies, standardizing work practices, clearly defining capacity constraints, and quickly identifying alternate sources for repair parts.

A current CTMA collaboration, Modeling Repair Activities, is demonstrating a methodology designed to help overcome these challenges.

Launched in April 2022, the project brings together the US Air Force, the Defense Logistics Agency, and industry partner Andromeda Systems Incorporated (ASI). The objective of this initiative is to conduct a gap analysis at two DOD repair locations: Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

Gap analyses are used by both public and private-sector organizations to assess the performance of a business or business unit to determine whether business requirements or objectives are being met and, if not, what steps should be taken to meet them.

This team is conducting a gap analysis on repair processes for the US Air Force’s Black Hawk variant, the HH-60W Jolly Green II, which is a combat rescue helicopter.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for synergy within the Black Hawk community across the enterprise,” said Greg Hutson, ASI’s Air Force Program Manager. “Our goal is to see where this helicopter is being repaired, at different locations throughout the DOD, to avoid duplicative maintenance. Identifying the repair capabilities that already exist within the DOD can help to reduce maintenance costs.”

This gap analysis will assist the HH-60W Program Office, which requires a comprehensive assessment of current line-replaceable units (LRUs)—an essential support item that can be removed and replaced at the field level to restore the end item to an operational ready condition, as defined in MIL-PRF-49506. LRUs are designed to be replaced within a short time, without the need for specialized tools, so they are particularly useful because the aircraft can quickly return to service while the failed LRU is being tested and repaired.

“The Air Force designated 30 components of the HH-60Ws as a core workload,” said Hutson. “The vast majority of these are avionics, and all are LRUs. According to the ‘50-50 Rule’, the Air Force needs to have 50 percent of their workload that is organic to maintain the depot capability. The Air Force wants to assess the repair capabilities for these 30 components at the Georgia and Utah sites.”

The project is proceeding in several steps. First, the team is reviewing the processes, skills, and resources currently in use, or planned, to complete repairs. Next, they are identifying the support and requirements needed such as test equipment, tooling, spares and repair parts, staffing, training, technical documentation, facilities (unique power/heating/cooling requirements and quality assurance). This step is also considering the packaging, handling, storage, and transportation (PHS&T) needed to activate the designated repair capabilities.

Then, the team is developing an estimated number of repairs based on the number of failures per flight hour. These estimates will be based on actual failures that have occurred, along with projected failures in the future. Finally, the team is producing repair time estimates, which will include the amount of time needed to diagnose, repair, and return the LRUs back to service. Part numbers and descriptions of relevant repair-related documentation will be provided. This includes, but is not limited to, acceptance test procedures (ATP), diagnostic test procedures (DTP), and repair procedures.

The project’s final deliverable will be a depot gap analysis report that will identify the gaps between the current depot capabilities and those required to support the sample set of new LRUs to help establish the depot source of repair (DSOR). This project’s report will assist DOD decision-makers with the process of determining when to in-source, and when to outsource LRUs to improve throughput.

This project will benefit not only the Air Force but also the DOD, enterprise wide. Lessons learned from this initiative can be applied across all DOD maintenance organizations, with the potential for adoption by managers of ground vehicle fleets, engineering equipment, power generation, ship repair, and a multitude of other applications. This project’s framework will help to facilitate more effective resource allocation and provide the DOD with more accurate forecasts for its operation and maintenance (O&M) budgets, greater fidelity when developing contract requirements and deliverables, and improved accuracy when reporting these publicly owned assets on financial statements and audits.

Additional benefits to the DOD include improved collaboration between engineering and logistics providers across the enterprise; optimized sustainment policies and practices at the program office, field repair activities, and field supporting agencies; decreased turnaround times and maintenance costs for organizational, intermediate, and depot-level repair activities; and increased mission capable/full mission capable weapons systems available to the warfighter.

The project is scheduled to be completed with the delivery of the final technical report and research items this July.

“We have appreciated the customer’s flexibility. The HH-60 Program Office has been very flexible and thoughtful about working with the various stakeholders—the OEMs and Air Logistics Complexes,” said Hutson.