F-35 stability a top priority today, but“the readiness business is hard. Sustainment readiness is not rocket science, but it takes an incredible effort, and you can’t ignore any aspects of it. And once you start to slope down, it’s a fast slope down and it’s a slow pull out of the problem area because parts take several years, depending on the complexity of the part, to go purchase.
So if you didn’t buy them or you didn’t spare for them, you’re way behind. So what we’re doing in a way is raising the visibility of what we need, and now we have to work with the services, work with the JPO and work with Congress to make sure we adequately fund and provide for the spare parts that we need to sustain it.”
Some F-35 suppliers are delivering late and non-conforming parts, resulting in production line inefficiencies and workarounds. Quality issues with insulation on the coolant tubes in the fuel tanks resulted in the contractor delivering less aircraft. According to contractor deliveries of parts are largely due to late contract awards and supply base capacity.
While supplier performance is generally improving, it is important for suppliers to be prepared for both production and sustainment support going forward. Inefficiencies, such as conducting production line work out of sequence, could be exacerbated if late delivery of parts continues as production is set to more than double in the near future.
Trying to catch up on parts procurement is a challenge for the older planes, where in some cases original manufacturers are no longer in business, and the Marine Corps is eager to avoid a spare parts deficit with its new F-35Bs as it builds the fleet out.
We need to keep our procurement of spares on track.” “If we don’t do that we could be in jeopardy. So that’s something we fight for all the time. The logistics part of this is about making sure we have a platform we can sustain and generate the combat power we need.
Contractor is working with the JPO and the services to understand the proper level of sparing for each of the three variants, develop partnerships with aviation depots that will conduct repairs and modifications throughout the life of the airplane, and mature diagnostics and prognostics to ensure the health of the F-35 fleet is sustained.
But there’s only so much the contractor – or even the services – can do in this budget environment. DoD is operating under a “broken budgeting process” today so service aviation heads are forced to rely on Overseas Contingency Operations funding instead of the base budget to pay for spares.
We’re being forced into a position to buy parts in the OCO budget because it’s not planned for, it’s not budgeted for, in sufficient quantity to make up for what the wartime commitment is.
There’s not enough money overall being put towards buying spare parts. We have to adequately fund spare parts, and spare parts are typically not funded at 100 percent. And if you’re not funded at 100 percent, you’re playing a shell game and a chess game with the parts that you have available to optimise it.”
Could we have increased investments in that area? The answer is yes. However, we must recognise the fact that there’s going to be more requirements than dollars available, and so you’re going to have to make those decisions. So could there be more? Yes.”
F-35 is showing high readiness levels in its early operations, which could help the services avoid falling into a readiness deficit with the planes.
The biggest challenge squadrons of all type/model/series aircraft face is “not mission capable-supply,” where spare parts are not available and therefore the plane cannot be fixed and put back on the flight line. “If you don’t have the parts you need on the shelf, what does a good industrious sailor or Marine do? They go get it off another airplane.
That airplane’s a little more broken than that one over there, so we’re going to take it off that airplane and put it on that one. That’s several maintenance efforts, that’s very negative maintenance because we’re going to have to … go over, take a part off an airplane, install it on that airplane over there, and then eventually go back and put another part on the airplane I just took it off of. It’s crazy, but they’re doing it because they have to do it.
The Navy and Marine Corps have sought to address this problem by asking lawmakers for more money for spare parts and logistics. Navy and Marine aviation leaders this year stressed the need for the less-flashy logistics funds. the Unfunded Priorities List, which may help shape an expected supplemental budget highlights the need for spare parts.
The plan’s first line of effort focuses on the maintainers themselves. The aviation logistics community will look for opportunities for Marines to step outside the organisation and learn new skills and new approaches to aircraft maintenance. For example, the plan recommends industry exchanges to let Marines see how other businesses conduct aviation maintenance and bring back best practices.
The plan also calls for non-traditional training opportunities such as a 3D scanning and printing training event focused on how to develop long-term maintenance, manpower, and materiel planning to improve aviation readiness,” with a focus on managing maintenance , manpower, training , and advanced skills.
New advanced wire repair training, plus increased participation in joint wiring training and working group events, will seek to directly affect flight line readiness rates. “Declining material condition across every type/model/series is impacting all wiring types and severely affecting current readiness. There is inadequate training and familiarity within the maintenance community. Lack of familiarity regarding the importance of wiring systems and apparent lack of focus on funding priorities for wiring at the system level are all contributing factors needing resolution to affect current readiness.”
After conducting independent readiness reviews for each type/model/series aircraft in the Marine Corps, the Marines found they did not have “the right density of maintainers with the right qualifications” in all of their squadrons. plan deals with “increasing the depth, capacity and reach of our operations sustainment capability” to keep up with the demands and changes in how Marines fight.
Modern combat scenarios demands flexible and scalable capabilities. Increased operational tempo, split and disaggregated operations and constrained resources mandate the modernization of written doctrine and its associated enablers.
The number of Marine Corps aircraft ready to fly on any given day has plummeted for almost a decade., leading to serious questions. Mission-capable rates for almost all of the Marine Corps' fixed-wing, rotary and tiltrotor airframes have fallen. While officials stress that the number of flyable aircraft fluctuates daily, the downward trends have alarmed Marine leaders and members of Congress.
"In the typical squadron too many are not able to fly tonight due to a shortage in parts, long-term fixes or need some kind of attention that the squadron doesn't have the ability to provide," so we can meet today's mission, but we don’t have the depth to meet tomorrow's."
The less they fly, the less training missions they get, the less training the aviation maintenance personnel get, the less money we have for spare parts, the less money we have for training exercises, the higher the mishap rate will be if everything else is held constant." We need to ensure we have the parts we need, the aircraft we need and most importantly, the training we need for our people so that we can remain at high readiness
But getting spare parts is a challenge when a fleet of Marines is competing for the same parts, the winner will be the unit closest to deploying. We do not have enough ready basic aircraft. That means we are not getting enough flight hours and we aren't up on our maintenance requirements for those specific aircraft.
While Marines are known for doing more with less, it poses challenges when they identify needed repairs, only to find they're competing with everyone else in need of the same parts. Since when a model type is out of production, there can be delays in getting needed parts so certain parts have to be made in-house, which can take a while.
"We can realistically only look Marines in the eyes so many times knowing that unless something changes, we will just be asking them again. Ingenuity only gets us so far, however, we are equipped to fight but our units at home who are on the bench are hurting the most."
The situation became dire when across-the-board sequestration hit. The readiness center was not able to hire replacements for service experts who retired or took jobs elsewhere, and it could not order badly needed maintenance materials or spend money to fix equipment at the center. This meant not enough maintenance on plant equipment. That led to many machines being down for extended periods of time," This inhibited our ability to produce parts, further slowing our turnaround time. Both issues continue to impact our throughput and cost..
Fewer available aircraft would mean less flight time for pilots — and if Marines weren't training to fly, he said they could become a liability. Congress has forced the military to cut training and operations budgets because they were not allowed to take money from elsewhere. This is a problem the Marine Corps itself cannot address," There's no way for the Marines to reallocate funding that just isn't there."
The Marine Corps is getting back basics to solve its aviation readiness problems, with a focus on contracting for spare parts and enhanced training for aircraft maintainers at the heart of several type/model/series’ readiness recovery plans
Each type of plane in the inventory has its own reasons for a declined state of readiness. Marine Corps set up independent readiness reviews for each aircraft type and is in various stages of implementing those plans to boost flight line readiness and increase the number of flight hours per month pilots can fly.
In the course of crafting these readiness recovery plans, two cross-platform ideas emerged that should set the Marine Corps up for long-term success: a new focus on contracts for spare parts, and a new Maintenance Training Instructor program Marines had a serious problem with “not mission capable- supply” status in several platforms, meaning aircraft were grounded because maintenance couldn’t be performed due to a lack of available spare parts.
Marine Corps now has contracting officers accountable for maintaining a proper flow of spares. “And instead of just kind of looking at something in the aggregate, you’re now responsible for that airplane, getting the parts for that airplane.”
The service is also looking for inefficiencies in existing contracts that can be ironed out, as well as improvements to the flow of parts – to avoid scenarios where spare parts stack up at loading docks but don’t make it to aircraft maintainers in a timely fashion. Marine maintainers weren’t spending enough time each month actually touching their airplanes.
In some cases, Marines had to reset the fleet – giving the aircraft new fuel lines, hydraulic lines, wiring and more. The reset program will take off any parts that are in bad condition or too old and replace them with brand new parts, restoring the helos to a high-reliability flight ready standard.
The Marine Corps’ challenge with the Hornet fleet is unique. It is the biggest user of the legacy Hornet – the Navy is using its newer Super Hornets while the older planes are stuck in a depot logjam, whereas the Marine Corps is just not meeting its flight hour goals.
The Navy and contractors are working hard on the depot side as the legacy planes go through a Service Life Extension Program SLEP, and with depot productivity up “now it’s about just kind of burning through the backlog. We’re just short of what we need to be producing out of the depots to do that, but throwing any more money at the depot probably is not the answer to that, we’ve just got to encourage them to do good work and to basically make their gate.
Another counterproductive but prevalent action has been transferring aircraft between units, typically in an attempt to get the most modern and highest-capability airplanes to the squadrons about to deploy. this can take about a thousand hours of maintenance per transfer. These hundreds of thousands of maintenance hours produced no additional readiness but just shifted planes around within the service.
We intend to assign monetary value to the man hours and require a cost-benefit analysis that looks at readiness lost due to the maintenance requirements associated with moving aircraft, compared to the warfighting capability gained.
The initiative would take the oldest planes and, while they’re in the depot for a Maintenance Inspection Interval bring them up to a common configuration to match the newest planes coming off the production line. We developed them off the line, there were changes we needed to go forward in combat, so they were modified as they came off the line, sometimes several in any given year and these airplanes went directly forward to either Marine Expeditionary Units or combat zones.
The biggest challenge would be spare parts and maintenance, and paying close attention to that supply logistics chain to avoid the problems plaguing the rest of Marine aviation. As for the maintainers, he said there’s a lot of excitement today about the F-35 transition and “right now we have just an exceptionally well trained F-35 fleet of mechanics.
We are attacking our current unacceptable Not Mission Capable- Supply rate, and the root causes for it. The supply chain that supports Marine aviation is fragmented, antiquated, and not optimised to enable the required state of readiness in our current fleet. This fact is clearly evidenced by the low rate of Ready Basic Aircraft RBA and unsatisfactory high Non Mission Capable Supply NMCS rates across nearly every T/M/S the Marine Corps currently operates.
RBA is important because, without enough ready airplanes, pilots at home cannot fly the required number of hours per month to stay certified, let alone proficient. The Marines hadn’t met their flight hour goal in several years but that the service was meeting its goals for getting aircraft out of the depots and back to the flight lines, so we should close the gap on and reach the RBA goal – and therefore hopefully the flight hour goal.
Each of the Independent Readiness Reviews conducted to date identified systematic shortfalls in the sustainment organisations, processes, and resources of the supply chain that supports Marine Aviation. Accordingly, the focus of effort will be on continuing to aggressively attack these daunting challenges. The strategy to reduce the capability challenge will be focused on the areas of consumables, repairable, and manpower.”
Marines will “monitor fleet demand for consumables on long-term contracts and ensure vendors receive accurate demand forecasts,” and work to improve depot component repair performance. Consumable forecasting is an issue. Lack of consumable material accounts for greater than 80% of non-mission capable supply
And as the Corps works to claw back readiness and increase pilot flight hours, it's the spare parts issue that has the service's top aviator most concerned. aircraft maintainers are still sometimes resorting to cannibalization, or borrowing parts from working aircraft to make other planes operational.
The one thing that is holding the man down on every platform is not-mission-capable supply," By every type/model/series, it's a contributor to why that airplane might not be available for flying. "We couldn't sustain them. The requirement was still there, but we couldn't sustain it. If the Marine Corps was a business, they are underwater right now, because we don't have enough power tools to make flight hour goal.
Marines have stood up Advanced Aviation Management Training Course for “maintenance Staff on how to develop long-term maintenance, manpower, and materiel planning to improve aviation readiness,” with a focus on maintenance management, manpower management, training management, and advanced skills management.
“A lot of the other type/model/series we didn’t have enough of the qualifications, we weren’t measuring the military occupational specialties of those young Marines. “We are doing that now, and that’s going to have an outsized impact on our ability to retain the right qualifications.
Another line of effort in the aviation logistics plan deals with “increasing the depth, capacity and reach of our operations sustainment capability” to keep up with the combat element demands and the third line of effort deals with keeping up with changes in how Marines fight .
“Today’s dynamic global environment demands flexible and scalable capabilities. Increased operational tempo, split and disaggregated operations and constrained resources mandate the modernisation of written doctrine and its associated enablers.
Each of the Independent Readiness Reviews conducted to date identified systematic shortfalls in the sustainment organisations, processes, and resources of the supply chain that supports Marine Aviation. Accordingly, the focus of future efforts will be on continuing to aggressively attack these daunting challenges focused on the areas of consumables, repairable, and manpower.”
By ridding the force of its reliance on fixed infrastructure and creating forward operating bases of varying sizes and levels of advances, Marine aviation would gain increased operational reach, increased capacity by supplementing sea-based sorties, more options during major manoeuvres, flexibility/surprise, and reduced risk to the force.
Distributed Operations concept supplements traditional sea and land basing options with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” for resupply mid-mission. A separate mobile distribution site would serve as the location for Marines on surface connectors to stage fuel and weapons that will be brought to the mobile forward arming and refueling points.
Importantly, all these sites are considered “mobile” and are intended to maintain elements of “deception and decoy” – in keeping with the idea that the aircraft are supposed to be distributed and difficult to find and target.
1. Where are interfaces-- technical, organisational; are they given or deliberately set?
2 Are there any disturbances--in the process, workflow, information flow?
3. Are there changes over time? e.g. in terms of goals or missions, requirements- or technology “creep”; address similar aspects to “what is new” question
4. Do we control/master it, also if conditions considerably change?
5. Is it mature e.g. readiness level- are there hidden potentials?
6. Is it a source of conflict, uncertainty, and ambiguity?
7. Are previous developments considered, and to what extend?
8. Does it increase or decrease the number of elements and relations?
9. Are there differences, similarities or overlap among elements and relations?
10. If everything went smoothly, would the issue really be worth accurate complex data indicator?