Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Customer Operations Directorate in Richmond, Virginia, is part of a team that keeps the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter mission ready in production, deployment, and sustainment.
DLA Aviation Customer Operations Directorate’s Bob Johnson, UH-60 weapon systems program manager, said supporting the aircraft is truly a joint effort, as the H-60 is used by all the services and the demands of one service oftentimes impacts the other services. The Army has the majority of the market on demands because they have the largest fleet, followed by the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard. Although the configurations are unique on each model, they do have common parts and DLA supports all platforms. The most current model DLA Aviation supports is the UH-60M. It also sustains the L and the A models.
“DLA Aviation is currently focused on tackling three areas of sustainment of the highly utilized helicopter: safety and maintenance, parts improvements, and updating engineering changes and other improvements from industry,” said Johnson. “Some engineering change improvements come from industry partners themselves as problems or improvements are identified from feedback from their suppliers.”
Richmond’s Customer account specialists H-60 team play a critical role by tracking and expediting parts drivers on the monthly supportability analysis/stock reports. The UH-60 team also includes DLA Aviation’s forward presence teams at Corpus Christi Army Depot, in Texas; and the customer logistics site specialists at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; and Fort Rucker, Alabama, who are DLA’s on-site specialists for all Army helicopter platforms. “It takes teamwork to keep our aircraft mission ready,” said Johnson.
The AMCOM provides information to the WSPMs in daily reports, grounded aircraft reports for deployed and non-deployed units, and in new safety messages. They also handle problematic issues and are the first line of communication from the field in getting information to DLA on issues that need to be addressed.
Johnson said three recent maintenance updates include retrofitting all UH-60 models with self-locking transmission filter bolts, replacing the UH-60M navigation lights, and retrofitting the machine gun mounts.
He explained each of these updates. The manufacturer upgraded the transmission filter bolts to self-locking bolts and retrofitted all models, because the new design gives maintainers confidence that the bolt is locked down tight without risk of overtightening or stripping.
The navigation lights positioned on the tail and side of the M model aircraft were outfitted with LED (light-emitting diode) lights, causing a halo effect and glare which was detrimental to most current night vision equipment. The manufacturer was not able to come up with another configuration so the lights were replaced with the previous incandescent lights used on the A and L models.
Johnson said they were able to expedite shipments with the contractors who manufactured the navigation lights and lenses, and the lights are being replaced this year on 700 aircraft.
The machine gun mounts on the UH-60 had to be changed because the machine guns themselves had design changes causing some interference with the mount that required additional machining, which in turn required submitting an engineering change proposal under the current contract.
Johnson said currently mounts are being delivered and backorders are being cleared.
There are some challenges going forward as the Army goes through Aviation restructuring initiatives between the active Army, Army Reserves, and Army National Guard units. “The reserves are sometimes giving up aircraft and the active Army may be turning over aircraft to reserve units,” said Johnson. “In monitoring these types of movements, we pull demand data and supportability analysis based on the weapon system platform each month to review for demand surges caused by Army restructuring or fiscal demand spikes.”
“We also monitor CCAD where for 15 years we have been successfully converting A models to L models,” he said.
Johnson said they are anticipating an increase in demands from CCAD that they have not seen previously in the last five to 15 years. The forward presence demand collaboration team at CCAD is helping with this issue.
“As new items are identified, the system is going to pick up on the demand forecasts. The UH-60 is a high-demand platform and typically has 15,000 to 20,000 demands per month,” said Johnson. “We have to rely on teamwork with our CAS’s, the forward presence at CLSS team at CCAD, AMCOM, and our industry partners to stay ahead of maintenance and safety-related issues.”
Johnson said DLA and our industry partners have long-term contracts and a strong communication plan. Every week the Army, Navy, and Air Force H-60 weapon system program managers give input from feedback received from AMCOM and other Navy and Air Force program offices on issues that come up on grounded aircraft for deployed or non-deployed units, or other aircraft awaiting parts. They have developed a standing critical item list and coordinate with industry weekly to discuss issue prioritization.
“In 2015, we exceeded our depot backorder reduction goal by over 30 percent," said Johnson. "Our material availability has been consistently over 90 percent."
The Army’s UH-60 tactical transport helicopter entered service with the Army in 1979 with the UH-60A, replacing the Bell UH-1 Iroquois. The UH-60 has been adapted and variant versions have been developed for the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The Black Hawk helicopter is the Army’s primary medium-lift utility transport and air assault aircraft. Its mission is to carry troops and provide logistical support. The aircraft can be configured to carry out medical evacuations, command and control, search and rescue, armed escort, electronic warfare and executive transport missions.