Sustainment Tail Remains a Question for Naval Aircraft
By EVAMARIE SOCHA, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — It’s not being ready to fight, but how long naval aircraft could sustain in battle that concerns Marine Brig. Gen. Greg Masiello, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) assistant commander for Logistics and Industrial Operations (Air-6.0).
“I have a lot of faith in what we have,” Masiello said April 4 following a briefing on NAVAIR’s AIR 6.0 program at the 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, adding that it may sound clichéd, but “we have to be ready to fight tonight. Do we have the sustainment tail for a long or abbreviated battle” is the question his part of NAVAIR must answer.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson has told all naval commanders they should feel uncomfortable about the state of the force right now.
It’s widely acknowledged military readiness isn’t where it needs to be, Masiello said, noting he and other officers said as much during testimony on Capitol Hill last week.
But “we haven’t lost our edge. Our readiness and fleet is not ideally positioned, but forces are ready if needed,” he said.
AIR 6.0 is an effort that coordinates logistics support systems and sustainment of naval aviation and weapons systems worldwide using about 4,000 civilians and military personnel.
Being ready for global threats through maintenance and modernization is foremost on Masiello’s agenda. To that end, he discussed the finer points of Vision 2020, a plan to improve readiness. He estimated naval aircraft is in the middle, or “proactive” stage, that includes additive manufacturing — using 3-D printers and tools for onsite product needs — budget alignment and NAVAIR’s Vector program, a Web-based readiness analysis toolset that debuted in July and lets all working on naval air programs contribute to and see equipment status reports.
Procedures now in place include:
■ An aircraft status dashboard that tells fleet members where every aircraft is and if it’s flight ready or not and why.
■ An end-to-end supply map of what equipment and parts are ready for use.
■ A supply and maintenance system that identifies trouble in equipment and machines in minutes rather than days.
Additive manufacturing has made a foothold in Masiello’s world. He noted the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md., used the technology to make small visor support clips for headgear of the H-1 Attack helicopter and “flight critical parts” for the MV-22 Osprey.
Such systems will get AIR 6.0 to the coveted “predictive” stage of Vision 2020, which will include readiness forecasting and predictive analytics, among other tools Masiello and company can use to assess the naval air needs and demands.
It is coming close: condition-based maintenance is credited with sparing the H-1 program about $40 million in repairs, 20 precondition landings and 7,000 hours of work.