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News | Aug. 8, 2022

FRCSW Fleet Support Team: Naval Aviation’s Problem Solvers

By Jim Markle

From crafting repairs to damaged aircraft, to creative engineering solutions to aircraft maintenance procedures and even assisting in the production of a blockbuster movie, the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Fleet Support Team (FST) is a versatile group with a knack to solve just about any issue pertaining to naval aviation.
Comprised of approximately 500 engineers, logisticians, chemists and scientists, the FST has served as the Navy’s in-service support provider for engineering and logistical solutions for more than 20 years.
One of their roles is to handle all organizational and depot-level issues with the F/A-18 Hornet airframe, and to develop and plan repairs and modifications as in-service repairs or as part of scheduled depot maintenance events.
While the primary body of the FST operates from FRCSW, FRC Southeast handles issues affecting the Hornet’s engines and electro-optical infrared components and Naval Sea Systems Command works on some of the airborne electronic attack components.
With an operating budget of approximately $85 million FST engineers, along with the Materials Engineering Laboratory and the Maintenance Repair & Overhaul Engineering Team, develop targeted repairs and tooling which are often applicable to more than one airframe.
Three years ago, for example, the FST developed an updated repair to resolve a recurring problem found during inspections of F/A-18 Super Hornet composite engine bay doors.
A corner section of the doors was suffering delamination during removal for repairs or as part of the aircraft’s maintenance program.
The existing double-sided patch repair required special equipment and specialized composite certification, limiting the repair procedure to approximately 20 depot-level artisans within the
Navy. Repair capability was not possible through fleet personnel.
Further, the repair fabrication process were causing the non-destructive inspection (NDI) and quality assurance (QA) failures.
To resolve the issue, FST engineers created a tool with a cutting template to remove the delaminated area. A single-sided, pre-made patch was developed and bonded to the area with an adhesive. The new repair procedure has saved more than $7 million in replacement costs of Super Hornet engine bay doors.

The repair method, called a “step” repair, or the shaving off of a part in a step, is applicable to other airframes like the MV-22 Osprey.
Two years ago the FST turned its attention to an issue affecting more than 50 floorboards of MH-60S multi-mission Sea Hawk helicopters.
Some Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) squadrons reported that corrosion and wear to the airframe’s aft floorboards interfered with the ability to install auxiliary fuel tanks needed for longer flights. The corrosion was at the tie-down point of the aircraft’s Extended Range Fuel Systems (ERFS) fuel tank.

Since the aft floorboards were not available within the supply system for another year, the FRCSW FST developed depot-level repair procedures until the new floorboards arrived.

The first step was the removal of the corrosion, and afterward, a determination if enough material remained of the floorboard to justify continuing the repair. If so, artisans applied a corrosion-prevention compound to those boards that passed the FST evaluation. 

Lastly, installation of a doubler and shim allowed the ERFS placement enabling mission-readiness of those squadrons.

Problem solving for the FST sometimes extends beyond those resources readily available at the depot. In 2015 the FRCSW FST introduced one of the most versatile and efficient tooling sources used within naval aviation today: “Cold Spray” technology.

Cold Spray is a gun-based supersonic coating application that uses solid metallic powders, ceramics or alloys that are ground to a particle size of less than the diameter of a human hair. FRCSW primarily uses alloys in its cold spray procedures.
The technology uses pressurized helium or nitrogen to deliver the metallic agent to repair the portion of a component affected by wear or corrosion, restoring it to its original dimension.
The process is called “cold spray” because the temperature used in the application is lower than the melting points of the agents it delivers, avoiding any heat-induced influence to the substrate.
A time-saving process, cold spray can apply an alloy coating in less than five minutes, whereas a traditional chrome application takes about 20 hours to apply 20 ml to a part.
FRCSW initially used cold spray primarily on the Hornet airframe including three aluminum and titanium parts: the aircraft mounted accessory drive (AMAD) housing, the brake carrier housing and the AMAD gear shaft.
More than 10 AMADs were refurbished alone, saving the Navy over $1.5 million in replacement costs. Before, damage to one part of the AMAD resulted in scrapping the entire unit.
In addition to the F/A-18, cold spray applications are used on components of other platforms including the CH-53 helicopter, E-2C Hawkeye and the LM2500 engine.
Routinely sought for their expertise in solving aviation issues, occasionally the FST receives an extraordinary request. The most recent wasn’t from a squadron, line production or airframe program --- but from Hollywood.
In 2018 FRCSW’s F/A-18 FST hosted a production crew from Paramount Studios for assistance in filming the Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun: Maverick.” 

Specifically, Paramount needed help in determining the locations and installation of the cameras on the interior and exterior of the F-model Super Hornet aircraft used in the movie.

After more than 1,000 hours of analysis, manufacturing and the painting of one aircraft for non-flying scenes, the FST and supporting FRCSW teammates helped Hollywood deliver the first movie of 2022 to surpass $1 billion in viewing sales.
More importantly, during Fiscal Year 2021, the FST and its sister teams played crucial roles in the command returning more than 150 mission-ready aircraft to the fleet; 28 of which were F/A-18s with a replacement value of roughly $1.8 billion.   

Nov. 21, 2023

FRCSW at Fleet Week San Diego

On November 8 2023, Fleet Week in San Diego unfolded as a grand spectacle of innovation and technology, transforming the Port Pavilion Building into a vibrant hub of the future.

Nov. 10, 2023

Honor Flight San Diego’s Tribute to American Veterans

Veterans Day not only offers a moment to reflect upon the sacrifices of service members, but also serves as a poignant reminder of the price of liberty and the importance of acknowledging those who have borne its cost. This day reinforces the timeless truth: freedom is never free, and gratitude towards its guardians is eternally owed. Building on this spirit of reverence, organizations like Honor Flight San Diego (HFSD) work tirelessly to show tangible appreciation to these heroes.

Sept. 5, 2023

FRCSW STEM in Action

When Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) STEM ambassadors visit local communities, their goal is to utilize the STEM outreach program to inspire and create valuable opportunities to learn for both students and educators. The program also tries to empower both the students and FRCSW employees by fostering meaningful connections between Naval STEM efforts and the upcoming generation.

July 20, 2023

FRCSW Engineer Receives Assistant Secretary of Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists & Engineers of the Year Award

FRCSW Engineer Receives Assistant Secretary of Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists & Engineers of the Year Award

May 15, 2023

FRCSW Comptroller Receives Department of the Navy and Secretary of Defense Financial Management Awards

FRCSW Comptroller Receives Department of the Navy and Secretary of Defense Financial Management Awards

April 27, 2023

FRCSW E-2D Team Wins NAVAIR Commander’s Award

FRCSW E-2D Team Wins NAVAIR Commander’s Award

April 18, 2023

FRCSW Sailors Named 2023 Sailor of the Year

FRCSW Sailors Named 2023 Sailor of the Year

April 6, 2023

FRCSW Ally Support Strengthens Royal Australian Air Force

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) successfully completed a first of its kind reconfiguration of a U.S. Navy EA-6B Growler for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

March 31, 2023

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest - Eliminating Waste and Improving Efficiency

For over 100 years, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) has provided the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps with the highest quality products and services in the most efficient manner possible. One of the state of the art management systems that makes this possible is the “Lean” process which focuses its attention on eliminating waste and error. FRCSW began the command’s most recent “Lean” process by integrating pre-expendable bins (PEB). Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Legg, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Industrial Supply Officer, in collaboration with the other PEB managers, played a pivotal role in the improvement of PEB inventory.

Sept. 26, 2022

FRCSW Navy’s Sole Maintainer of Rotodome Radar

A primary tool of the Hawkeye’s defensive posture is the rotodome radar system, maintained by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).