Richmond, Virginia –
The Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Marine Corps customer facing team has taken measures to improve material support for aviation readiness through improved forecasting, industry collaborations, fleet engagement, and supplier summits to ensure lifecycle support. These efforts, combined with continuous process improvements in fleet maintenance and supply, have led to a positive readiness trend for the AV-8B Harrier and its F-402 engine.
The AV-8B Harrier, a single-engine ground-attack aircraft capable of vertical and short takeoff and landing, is used by the Marine Corps on multi-role missions ranging from close air support of ground troops to armed reconnaissance.
In order to provide better warfighter support to Marine Corps Aviation platforms, DLA Aviation’s Marine Corps team has increased from two to eight members over the past eight months.
DLA Aviation’s Marine Corps Major Chris Story, weapons systems program manager for Marine Corps’ customer operations, said Marine Corps Capt. Seth Deaton, team lead, and the AV-8B team are working diligently and have enabled significant increases in Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA), a Navy metric, indicating how many aircraft are available for training and readiness. Most notably, Deaton and the team surpassed the engine readiness goal of 155 ready for issue for the Harrier’s F-402 engines in December 2015.
In the Marine Aviation Plan 2016, Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, states “we are 55 percent short of the ‘up’ aircraft we need to meet our Title 10 responsibilities.” (Title 10 provides the legal basis for the roles, missions and organization of each of the services.)
Story said over the past two years, the Corps conducted the first two independent readiness reviews: the first on the AV-8B Harrier; and second on the CH-53E Super Stallion with the goal of increasing the number of available ready basic aircraft in the fleet. The Marine Corps is currently conducting a similar review on the MV-22 Osprey and will review other Marine Corps platforms in the future.
The Marine Aviation Plan 2016 addresses the Harrier and Super Stallion reviews, which were intensive and dispassionate, and gave an in-depth look at the issues and concerns in each community, and detailed the way forward.
The Harrier Independent Readiness Review focused on three key areas tied to aircraft reporting status: out of reporting aircraft, manpower deficiencies and inefficiencies, and materiel.
Story said one measure being taken by the DLA Aviation AV-8B team to improve timely supply support is developing better methods to forecast for material before the actual demand occurs. He pointed out there have been initiatives throughout DLA Aviation, from senior leadership to the most junior of employees, to achieve gains in forecasting readiness.
A critical component towards improved forecasting included close collaboration with industry, to include: Rolls Royce, the primary supplier of the F-402 engine that powers the AV-8B; and the Marine Corps Harrier Program Office (Program Management Aviation - 257) in Patuxent River, Maryland. “The goal of all concerned parties is to ensure the AV-8B is supported to the end of its lifecycle and bridge the gap to 2026 and possibly later when the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter fully replaces the Harrier,” said Story.
The program currently in place to help with this is referred to as the Demand Data Exchange, which was previously done at the fleet level. Story said that DLA is collaborating directly with program offices (like PMA-257) in order to have a more holistic, program management model versus only tactical collaboration. The program allows customers to transmit anticipated demand in the form of national stock numbers, quantities, and need dates instead of waiting for the demand to occur.
He also said collaborative forecasting allows the Marine Corps Harrier Program Office to work with DLA Aviation Planning Process and Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorates to take outcomes and develop procurement actions ahead of customer demand.
The Marine Corps Harrier and DLA Aviation’s AV-8B Program Offices were the first to sign a Joint Collaboration Agreement with DLA to ensure this could occur. Story said the team held meetings with key stakeholders to prioritize critical items inhibiting readiness at the flight-line or production maintenance lines at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Centers.
In the recently published, “Marine Aviation Plan 2016-2026”, the plan defines the additional challenges and opportunities facing Marine Aviation. The document highlights a current 2016 milestone that the Marine Corps is approximately halfway through the full transition of every tactical platform in the inventory.
Some of the supply chain challenges for other unavailable aircraft mentioned earlier are:
· CH-53E Super Stallion– a small number of aircraft, coupled with a limited manufacturing base, and exacerbated by the heavy usage of the platform over the past decade;
· MV-22 Osprey – Growing fleet of aircraft, highest in demand platform in the Marine Corps inventory, and competition between using limited parts on aircraft still in production with already fielded aircraft;
· H-1 (UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Viper)- A new, growing fleet, changing failure rates with components failing long before the predicted mean time between failures.
“DLA Aviation’s Marine Corps customer facing team will aggressively adhere to the readiness recovery plans across the board, making the necessary manpower, training and policy changes, funding and executing the totality of the recovery plan,” said Story. “The growing Marine customer facing team at DLA Aviation plans to capitalize on lessons learned in the short term to ensure future readiness becomes a reality.”