The DoD sustainment and logistics budgets cannot afford to waste a single dollar; hence the services are seeking ways to reduce No Fault Found (NFF) returns and increase materiel readiness to 80% for the F-35, F/A-18, F-16, and F-22 inventories. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) established the Joint Intermittence Testing Working Integrated Product Team (JIT WIPT) and has calculated the negative cost impact of NFF returns at $2 billion annually, with intermittent faults cited as the primary cause. However, it’s not just about the dollars. For many DoD weapon system components that cause operational failures, less than 50% have the actual root cause of the problem identified and repaired, the other half test NFF. The negative implications for critical combat equipment that form the backbone of our tactical air power are stark, according to the September 2018 GAO Report “Weapon System Sustainment: Selected Air Force and Navy Aircraft Generally Have Not Met Availability Goals”.
Conventional automatic test equipment (ATE) is not designed or optimized to detect momentary intermittent failures that cause NFF returns. The scientific discovery that conventional ATEs are unable to detect and isolate intermittent faults led to the development and deployment of the Intermittent Fault Detection & Isolation System™ (IFDIS™) which was specifically designed to detect and isolate intermittent faults in electrical and avionics component interconnections and wiring. IFDIS testing of F-16 Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) and F/A-18 Weapon Replaceable Assemblies (WRAs) has more than tripled the operational reliability of the LRUs/WRAs and realized over $70 million in maintenance cost savings. Consequently, the DoD is procuring additional IFDIS systems to exploit the benefits of increased materiel readiness while reducing maintenance costs through intermittent fault detection.
Universal Synaptics has taken the advanced diagnostic capability contained in the IFDIS and made it portable so that it can be applied rapidly, easily, and cost-effectively at O- and I-levels of maintenance for Electrical Wiring Interconnect Systems (EWIS). The Voyager Intermittent Fault Detector™ (VIFD™) meets the DoD requirement for being single-man portable, is MIL-PRF 32516 compliant, and can be powered with AC or DC power supplies. Collaboration over the last 12 months between the Army, Navy, Air Force, OSD, and CTMA has produced unprecedented results. The VIFD has been applied to the F/A-18, V-22, A-10, H-53, AH-64, UH-60, and Patriot Missile Systems with intermittent faults detected and isolated by the VIFD in 99% of the wiring systems tested (30 different wiring systems). All wiring systems tested had been tested by currently deployed wire test sets and passed. The benefits of VIFD testing are providing a clear and comprehensive outcome to the maintainer, reducing NFF returns, and increasing materiel readiness.
The proven benefits of IFDIS and VIFD across a variety of weapon systems can be applied to the complete maintenance spectrum of electrical, electronic, and avionics components/wiring across the DoD maintenance enterprise. Increasing mission capability to 80% for the F-35, F/A-18, F-16, and F-22 inventories, while aggressively pursuing other enduring fixed and rotary wing aviation assets is possible with the IFDIS and VIFD.
NSWC Crane personnel recognized that the EA-18G could benefit from Intermittent Fault Detection technology. The collaboration effort focused on leveraging the Joint Military Performance specification, MILPRF- 32516 Electronic Test Equipment, and Intermittent Fault Detection and Isolation for chassis and backplane conductive paths to implement short duration intermittence testing in WRA backplanes and chassis across the lifecycle to improve operational availability, enable cost-effective readiness, and reduce troubleshooting and maintenance costs. The project fulfills the DoD objective of leveraging low-risk, high-benefit technologies designed to improve DoD maintenance capabilities and reduce weapon system maintenance costs. This initiative has also captured the benefits of using the IFDIS and VIFD on the NSWC Crane selected electronic components.
The effort has demonstrated and provided additional data as to the usefulness of the advanced detection and isolation equipment for other DoD weapons systems and cost reduction initiatives.
Like other Navy locations, NSWC Crane plans to realize a significant return on investment as it utilizes the IFDIS and VIFD capability to detect, isolate, and repair the root cause of intermittence in Navy WRAs and wiring harnesses. The DoD will benefit as WRAs and wiring harnesses are restored to their design reliability, being certified intermittent free, while also remaining on the respective weapon system for longer periods of time and reducing the lifecycle costs of additional IFDIS and VIFD selected test candidates.