NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. –
Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) successfully completed a first of its kind reconfiguration of a U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The aircraft was flown to FRCSW in March of 2020 for long term storage and the command took on this effort, demonstrating its ability to excel at collaborating across international lines with foreign entities. Ehren Terbeek, F/A-18 Legacy & E/F Program Manager, was part of the command leadership that received the workload at the time of induction in August of 2022 and he oversaw the team taking on this challenge. The RAAF looked to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to procure the aircraft for reconfiguration. However, after an internal issue delayed the Air Force’s timeline for delivery, the RAAF looked elsewhere for an aircraft. FRCSW took the stage in providing a replacement Growler from one of the command’s detachments.
Myra Balina, FRCSW Production Support Logistics Lead, knew the extensive research required to adapt the aircraft to fit the Australian configuration. “Managing this kind of special rework was not the norm.” Balina says. This was the first time the command took on the challenge of reconfiguring an aircraft to fit the needs of a foreign military ally.
Balina and her team conducted extensive research on the maintenance evolution, differences in modification kits, and aircraft avionics in order to correctly configure software requirements. Balina was also a pivotal player in the logistics of this operation, filling in the gaps between the planner and supply department, including managing the procurement of tooling, support material, and equipment from start to finish. There were many crossovers between her routine workload and this assigned mission. However, she and her team researched what was missing in their knowledge base to successfully bridge the gap between the U.S. Navy’s configurations to the RAAF. One of the challenges they were given was receiving failed parts to work with and another challenge took the form of material shortages. Despite the challenges, Balina said, “the successful collaboration efforts and communication from the artisans on the floor are what allowed us to fill in the gaps and kept us on schedule. We also identified any issues up front and communicated that to the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Program Management Activity (PMA) teams.” Neil Belmont, FRCSW Planner and Estimator, was another key player that specialized in rework of aircraft. While his main roles include tracking time schedules, cost performance and timeline reports, as well as providing technical directives, his past experience with crash and burn damaged aircraft as well as reconfiguration of aircraft contributed to the success of this accomplishment.
The completion of the reconfiguration in less time than anticipated and doing so while staying within budget was a “big part of the success.” Belmont said. As previously mentioned, this was not a typical workload the command, artisans, and the logistics team received. Belmont described the extensive research and “leveling up” that was collectively necessary in order to meet the goals of this mission.
In January of 2023, FRCSW successfully completed and sold the aircraft to Australia on its first flight. Aside from being the first reconstitution sold, this mission was beneficial to FRCSW by expanding the command’s knowledge in the business of working with entities outside of the U.S. Navy. Furthermore this mission boosts the capability of our warfighter, as well as the capability of the ally’s military. FRCSW’s mission is a testament to the strength of the existing partnership. Not only does it further strengthen the longstanding ties, but it also bolsters America’s reputation overseas and increases confidence in our military as an ally. Missions like these are what is fundamental to maintain alliances and boost strategic readiness in the face of major conflict.