A project created by a group of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) materials engineers was selected one of seven winners of the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Standardization Program (DSP) Achievement Awards.
The NAVAIR Composite Repair (NAVCORE) Working Group earned the award by establishing standardization initiatives within carbon epoxy repairs that proved beneficial to the Department of Defense.
The NAVCORE group gained cost savings estimated at more than $5 million, and its standardization initiatives will reduce turn-around time rates, capability costs and manhours.
Formed in 2017, NAVCORE is a joint effort of Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW), FRC Southeast, FRC East and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, Md.
"Every site was doing things a little bit differently. The equipment was different and the repair materials used were different," said FRCSW Materials Engineering Division Head Ron Pangilinan. "Each team lead had a task to work out the requirements, make decisions on standardization and develop a logistics plan to implement. In total, over 35 people contributed to the project."
Since the introduction of the legacy F/A-18 Hornet 37 years ago, the use of composites in the Navy's airframes has increased significantly. The legacy Hornet contained about 10 percent advanced composite by weight. Today, the V-22 Osprey has a composite weight of 60 percent, the Super Hornet 20 percent, and unmanned aerial vehicles as high as 90 percent.
Aircraft original equipment manufacturers (OEM) developed individual repair methods often using different materials. To perform in-service repairs on these aircraft the Navy had to adopt new materials, processing, equipment and separate training for each airframe.
NAVCORE members developed five primary initiatives to improve composite repair procedures:
- A centralized approach to increase the shelf-life of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) without degrading effectiveness. The move standardizes testing and shelf-life extension of HAZMAT materials with an estimated savings of up to 50 percent ($50,000 to $200,000 per year) of each item tested and extended. It will be introduced throughout the FRCs and aligned with DOD requirements for shelf-life extension testing.
- The standardization and reduction of repetitive materials to cut costs by roughly $100,000 per year for each repair site and increase interoperability since multiple aircraft programs will be using the same materials. This increases readiness because materials identified already have Navy-owned substantiating data, are logistically supportable with a national stock number, and will be available at all sites. The measures will be applied across multiple Navy systems and solicited to other DOD branches.
- Consolidation of processes will decrease variability within Navy repair sites and increase quality, reliability, safety and performance as sites become aligned with best practices from Navy lessons learned and industry standardization. Readiness increases because site and aircraft specific training are not required for standardized processes. National standards are being created to ensure interoperability between Navy and contractor repair sites. Further, engineering labor required for updating individual local specifications will be reduced at a savings of $25,000 to $50,000 per year, per specification. The standardized processes will be applied across naval aircraft programs and repair sites including organic and contractor organizations (domestic and foreign).
- By standardizing composite repair training to skill specific vice aircraft specific creates a cost avoidance to have a single person trained on multiple aircraft. Cost avoidance for one technician is approximately $40,000 in classroom labor for one extra platform. Extrapolated up to three platforms and including on-the-job training requirements, cost avoidance can be to $150,000 per employee. Each depot composite repair site has 10 to 60 employees.
Standardization of depot-level training has generated pilot programs to include fleet Intermediate-level personnel trained for depot-level composite repair certification, a first in Navy history. The program is only applicable within the Navy, but will be shared with other DOD branches.
- Composite support equipment standardization will improve reliability, sustainability, interoperability, and readiness. Artisans will have fewer kits, better accessibility, and standardized tooling will be available at all locations.
Eliminating just one tool kit generates a cost savings of $150,000 to $200,000 in material costs. Most sites have three to four tool kits depending on the different aircraft programs.
Standardized tooling increases readiness because the equipment is available at multiple repair shops within the same location. The initiative will be used across naval systems and shared with other DOD branches due to similarity in the aircraft fielded.
Enactment of the primary initiatives is anticipated between fiscal years 2020 and 2022.
Other initiatives include the adoption of industry standardized repair material, and consolidation of current repair material data that will have a cost avoidance up to $3 million for multiple aircraft programs.
Standardization of repair materials data will gain a cost avoidance in repeated research efforts. These initiatives will be cross-platform and across service with the U.S. Air Force.
"We dealt with technical communities outside of the Navy, so whatever ideas they had we would consider here as initiatives and vice-versa. For example, process improvements developed here can be used by Boeing and Northrop Grumman to maintain the F/A-18 aircraft because it's the same aircraft we support," Pangilinan said. "And the group was pooling people from the Fleet Support Team. As they built these processes that applied to parts, they had to get with people who were experts on the parts."
The success of the NAVCORE group led to the formation of other standardization teams in metal processing, plating and non-destructive inspection.
"We've seen that when a national team puts their minds together they can accomplish great things, this was used to push and encourage the other specialists to form working groups for their areas," Pangilinan said.
The DSP Awards ceremony will take place Mar. 24 at the Defense Logistics Agency headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Va.