SECNAV Spencer: Naval Aviation Readiness Showing Upswing
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The data is showing that the equipment readiness of U.S. naval aviation has improved over the last year as backlogs at aviation depots drop and improved maintenance practices take hold.
“The Marine Corps aviation readiness has improved 10 percent over the last year,” said Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, speaking to reporters at an August 7 media roundtable in the Pentagon. “We’re working on this tooth and nail.”
Referring to the Marine Corps’ aviation combat element, ”probably one of the most readiness-challenged major force elements, … we can see improvement across every type/model/series in that group and [we] really are now in a solid footing to meet the global demand,” Spencer said.
“Compared to the year before, aircrew flight hours increased 13.4 percent in fiscal ’17 [and] 32 percent in fiscal year ’18 as we move into the end of it,” he said.
“Transitioning from Generation 4 to Generation 5 aircraft, we’re 46 percent complete in the Marine Corps by adding 94 aircraft to the fleet,” he said.
Spencer cited the Depot Readiness Initiative [DRI] as an example of pilot program that made progress in processes. For example, an aircraft inducted into depot maintenance would require workers spend hundreds of maintenance man-hours to strip the aircraft down to work on the airframe and other components. Once out of the depot, the same aircraft would happen to be due for calendared maintenance inspection at the squadron level, requiring hundreds of hours to strip the aircraft again. By completing the calendared inspection while the aircraft was in the depot, hundreds of man-hours were saved.
“We’re probably going to roll this [DRI] out across the whole fleet,” he said.
Spencer noticed that helicopter availability of Army helicopters was “miles ahead of us. Every time they came back from overseas they brought their aircraft back for reset. The Corps kept [theirs] in the field and it came back to bite us in the ankle very, very hard. We started a reset program last year with a reset contract on both coasts, … about 175 to 200 man-hours [per CH-53E aircraft].
“We’ve returned 18 long-term-down [CH-53E] aircraft to operational status,” he said. “It’s a great program. We’re now generating 5,500 more hours in training and operational flights. Our rating of our ability to respond in the heavy lift squadrons has gone up by 23 percent. … Our maintenance man-hours per flight hour were reduced by 50 percent.”
The Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter fleet also is benefiting from a focus on depot processes.
“We’re getting after the long-term-down airframes,” he said. “We added 29 full-mission-capable [FMC] Super Hornets since Jan. 1. [increasing the FMC Super Hornets] to 270 up from 241.”