19 Feb 21. Serco’s Defence business has been awarded a contract to provide all the spare parts for the RAF’s Grob Viking TMk1 glider fleet. This new contract is in addition to the current contract that Serco has to provide maintenance for the glider fleet. In a related move Serco has also acquired a specialist Robin DR400/180R aircraft to launch RAF Air Cadets gliders into the air. In addition to these two new contracts, last year Serco secured a two-year extension to the Glider Maintenance contract until March 2022 and Serco’s specialist glider maintenance team already works to ensure that airworthy Viking Glider aircraft and effective engineering support are available to meet the needs of 2 Flying Training School (2 FTS). The School delivers a glider flying experience in a military environment, including solo flying, for RAF Air Training Corp Cadets through a Centralised Gliding School (CGS) and Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGS) at several sites across the UK. At the 2019 RAF Aerospace Cadets Summer Camp, Serco enabled a flying experience for around 300 cadets in one week at RAF Syerston.
Commenting on the contract award, Paul McCarter Managing Director, Serco Defence, said: “We are delighted to be broadening the support we are providing for the RAF glider fleet and helping to give cadets a flying experience. Through consolidating the Glider Maintenance, spares and aerotow contracts Serco will provide an integrated and cost-effective solution for the Royal Air Force.”
The RAF Air Cadets are a UK-wide cadet force with more than 40,000 members aged between 12 and 20 years. Sponsored by the RAF, the Air Cadets promote and encourage a practical interest in aviation and the RAF Force among young people, provide training which will be useful in the Services and civilian life and encourage the spirit of adventure and develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship.
18 Feb 21. Want bigger aircraft force levels? Buy spare parts. The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on weapon system sustainment last fall (GAO-21-101SP). It is a redacted version of an earlier report because the Department of Defense “deemed some of the information in our August report to be sensitive,” GAO wrote. This should have been adequate warning of a serious problem, but election activities buried the news along with the DoD’s willingness to avoid the problem.
An attempt was made by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to get improvements, but little happened beyond a shrug that goals weren’t met. This attitude must change now.
The news is bad, but solutions are possible. We faced the same problem in the 1980s and found a simple solution: Adjust spare parts’ economic order quantities and safety levels to cover the uncertainty shown by prior demand. The goal was to assure that mechanics would not be waiting for a part while a multimillion-dollar aircraft languished. That simple solution worked for several years until cost cutters started reducing spares budgets followed by mission-capable decline.
It is time to start all over with a spare parts policy. No commercial organization would be satisfied with the current DoD mission-capable performance.
Logistics has a way of assigning performance terms that do not indicate the importance. For example, aircraft availability is determined by “not mission capable maintenance” and “not mission capable supply.” A person has to know a lot to make sense out of these numbers.
For fiscal 2019, the GAO study found only three of the 46 types of aircraft examined met the service-established mission-capable goal. Furthermore, for fiscal 2019:
- Six aircraft were 5 percentage points or fewer below the goal.
- 18 were from 15 to 6 percentage points below the goal.
- 19 were more than 15 percentage points below the goal, including 11 that were 25 or more percentage points below the goal.
Another table pointed out that there are many excuses for low performance, but all have a common element of spare parts shortages (see page 14 of the report).
There is no shortage of management data. Readily available data on “not mission-capable” aircraft shows aircraft tail numbers, part numbers needed to fix the problems, parts sources and expected delivery dates. This is all that is needed for a parts expediter to find faster solutions. But results show this does not happen. New processes and operation rules are needed to replace the current management and performance failures.
The report describes the chain of command responsible for providing spares. This begins with the systems logistics manager and flows through many layers. No wonder performance is sluggish. Focus on results needs to be established.
I suggest the following changes:
- Establish achievement within two years of mission-capable goals as a defense policy.
- Abandon the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s current spare parts policies limiting parts purchases and forcing procurement through the Defense Logistics Agency.
- Service secretaries report to secretary of defense quarterly on aircraft availability.
- Accept spare parts budgets and fully fund related efforts.
- Numerous procedural changes are possible to speed availability based on current, best commercial practices. These differ by service.
- Implement the technology of artificial intelligence to speed operations and reduce bureaucracy.
The task does not have all the glamor of many other defense issues, but is a more essential element of success than many technological dreams being discussed. Other organizations, such as airlines, would not accept the Defense Department’s mission-capable performance. Why should the American people? (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
18 Feb 21. The ‘Bone’ heads to the boneyard. The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday began the process of retiring the B-1 Lancer, as the “Bone” bomber flew to the Air Force’s boneyard where divested aircraft are kept in storage.
The Air Force plans to retire 17 of its 62 B-1s, as authorized by Congress in the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill. The service said divesting its most battered and difficult-to-maintain B-1s would free up maintainers to restore the health of the remaining Lancer fleet.
Gen. Tim Ray, who leads Air Force Global Strike Command, described the retirement of the B-1 as “something we have been working toward for some time” to transition to the B-21 Raider in the mid-2020s.
“Due to the wear and tear placed on the B-1 fleet over the past two decades, maintaining these bombers would cost 10s of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to status quo,” he said in a statement. “And that’s just to fix the problems we know about. We’re just accelerating planned retirements.”
After a single B-1 was sighted flying around Arizona on Wednesday evening, an Air Force spokesman confirmed to Military.com that one B-1 from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota was making its way toward Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Davis-Monthan AFB is home to the “boneyard,” where the Air Force stores thousands of retired military planes, keeping aircraft safe so that parts can be harvested.
Four of the 17 retired B-1s will be required to be maintained in “type 2000 recallable storage,” which would allow the Air Force to put those aircraft back into service if needed. Forty-five B-1s will be left in the active-duty inventory after the 17 bombers are divested.
The B-1B has been flown hard in combat over the last two decades, and continued operations over the Middle East have “taken a toll on the airframe’s structure,” the Air Force said in a statement. Currently, a small portion of the B-1B fleet would require anywhere from $10m to $30m per plane to maintain the “status quo.”
In the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress prohibited the Air Force from reassigning any maintenance personnel currently working on the B-1, ensuring that maintainers can devote their attention to increasing the readiness of the B-1 inventory.
“Retiring aircraft with the least amount of usable life allows us to prioritize the health of the fleet and crew training,” Ray said. “Our ability to balance these priorities will make us more capable and lethal overall.”
The last B-1 is slated to leave service in 2036. (Source: Defense News)
18 Feb 21. Satellite images suggest China’s new tanker aircraft is under production. Satellite imagery appears to indicate China has begun serial production of a tanker aircraft based on its indigenous Xi’an Y-20 airlifter, filling a notable gap in the power projection capabilities of its air force.
The overhead imagery of the airfield at Xi’an-Yanliang — taken Dec. 30, 2020, and provided to Defense News by Planet Labs — shows four Y-20s with the shadows of refueling pods on their outer wings clearly visible, indicating that these are Y-20U tankers.
The Y-20U is a tanker variant of the Y-20 and is believed to be fitted with three refueling points, these being located on pods mounted on the outer wings and one more on the rear fuselage.
Refueling is achieved by the hose and drogue method, with a refueling basket at the end of a retractable hose where receiver aircraft with inflight refueling probes “plug” into the basket before taking on fuel.
The first Y-20U prototype made its maiden flight in 2018, and the appearance of four Y-20U suggests the flight test program is complete or has advanced sufficiently enough for serial production to begin. It is unknown whether the Y-20U will be a dedicated tanker or will retain its cargo capability of the standard Y-20 airlifter.
The four-engine-strong Y-20 and Y-20U are still, however, powered by the Russian Soloviev D-30KP-2 turbofan engines. China is developing the WS-20 high-bypass turbofan for the Y-20 family, although the engine is not expected to enter production before 2024.
A Y-20 strategic transport plane takes flight Oct. 29, 2016, in Zhuhai, China. The Y-20 is China’s first domestically developed heavy-lift transport aircraft. (Getty Images)
Three of the four aircraft in the satellite photo are painted in dark gray, while the last aircraft is still in its primer coat. One of the gray aircraft is the prototype, or test bed aircraft, while the other three are likely to be production aircraft.
The four Y-20Us are among 16 Y-20s seen throughout the airfield. Xi’an-Yanliang is where the production facilities of the Xi’an Aircraft Company, or XAC, is located, along with a number of aviation technology companies and research facilities.
It is also home to the China Flight Test Establishment, which is responsible for overseeing flight testing of new aircraft types built by Chinese companies.
Where does China’s refueling capability stand?
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, or PLAAF, currently operates about two dozen tanker aircraft. That fleet is mostly made up of H-6U and naval H-6DU tankers based on the Xi’an H-6 bomber, which is itself similar to Russia’s Tupolev Tu-16, which dates back to the Soviet-era of the 1950s.
The PLAAF also operates three Ilyushin Il-78MP tankers acquired from Ukraine and delivered in 2014. The service has encountered issues with securing more of the Russian-built Il-76s airlifters for conversion into tankers or to boost its modest heavy airlift capabilities prior to the Y-20 entering service in 2016.
The small number of Il-78s in PLAAF service, as well as the limited fuel offload capability of the H-6 compared to larger aircraft, means China has what could be described as a modest inflight refueling capability.
This shortfall in tanker capacity is likely to ease if more Y-20Us are built, and the increase in the number of these force multiplier aircraft will enable China to extend its reach in airspace and keep its combat aircraft in the air for longer periods of time. (Source: Defense News)
12 Feb 21. Sikorsky to upgrade HH-60W helo to improve on 2012 baseline capabilities. The US Air Force (USAF) is to contract Sikorsky to upgrade its HH-60W Jolly Green II combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter to improve on the 2012 requirements baseline.
The service disclosed on 11 February that the manufacturer is to bring the capabilities of the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) up to today’s specifications, ahead of the commencement of full rate production in fiscal year 2022.
“The current system specification reflects a 2012 requirements baseline which was defined and frozen prior to the 2014 CRH contract awarded for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase,” the USAF said in its sole-source justification document posted on the beta.sam.gov US government procurement website. “During the last five years of EMD execution, the original CRH requirements baseline has evolved as a result of changes in threat conditions and evolving mission requirements. The response to this operational need is the driver for the continuance of new capability development and integration into the CRH baseline.”
In response to this requirement, the USAF is to award Sikorsky a USD980.7 m contract over a five-year ordering period, with the work itself to run for seven years.
News of the planned award came some 16 months after the USAF issued a request for information (RFI) on 1 October 2019 to assess the ability of companies and industry at large to perform development, integration, verification, production, and installation of a broad spectrum of capability upgrades for the CSAR helicopter, which at that time had only recently been cleared to enter into low-rate initial production (LRIP). (Source: Jane’s)