Aviation Ground Support Equipment: The Forgotten Enabler

SINCE ITS ESTABLISHMENT IN DECEMBER 2003, PM AGSE has taken a number of steps to improve the condition of the Army's aviation ground support equipment. Aviation ground support equipment (AGSE) includes a variety of items needed to support Army aircraft before and after flight. Unfortunately, the Army's stock of this equipment is aging and falling into disrepair. To address this issue, Program Executive Office, Aviation, converted the Weapon Systems Manager Office, AGSE, to a Product Manager Office (PM), AGSE, in December 2003 and charged it with correcting the AGSE problems. With this change, the organization transitioned from providing sustainment to providing total life-cycle management.

PM AGSE's challenges include matching AGSE with capabilities-based unit designs, meeting across-the-board requirements for all aviation assets and reducing the aviation footprint for logistics and maintenance. With finite resources, PM AGSE is looking to create a balance among current requirements, transformation and future needs.

TACKLING THE PROBLEMS

To ensure they have a true picture of the current state of AGSE, the PM and his logistics chief personally have visited every Army aviation maintenance support activity participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Kuwait. In meetings on their home turf, tactical commanders, maintenance officers, maintenance noncommissioned officers and the soldiers using the equipment raised several common issues to the PM?

  • Units do not have dedicated AGSE maintainers.

  • Units want the capability to wash aircraft in tactical situations.

  • Units want a standard towing system for moving aircraft.

  • Units want updated aviation intermediate maintenance (AVIM) and aviation unit maintenance (AVUM)-level shop sets and transports.

PM AGSE is pursuing solutions to the issues of transformation and two-level maintenance requirements that balance the needs identified in the field with available resources. PM AGSE is determined to meet the needs of the soldier, accelerate the fielding of mature technology, enhance readiness and meet designated military objectives. The PM shop is working on several products that are designed to accomplish these goals.

SHOP EQUIPMENT CONTACT MAINTENANCE

Shop equipment contact maintenance (SECM) is a vehicle- mounted maintenance platform with compartments that can hold mission-essential equipment, including expendable supplies, spares, tools and repair parts. The modular design of SECM allows for adding modules. Currently, 65 SECMs have been issued to units for test and evaluation. A full-rate production decision review is scheduled for the third quarter of fiscal year 2005. Procurement should begin during the same time period, with the first unit equipped late in fiscal year 2005.

AVIATION GROUND POWER UNIT

The aviation ground power unit (AGPU) is designed to provide electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic servicing of rotary-wing aircraft. Modifications to the unit include improving the hydraulic filtration, exhaust, battery, forklift slots and power source. Another modification is designed to increase the alternating current continuous output and overload performance of the current power unit in order to meet the ground servicing requirements of the AH?64D Apache Longbow helicopter. This modification introduces improvements to the electrical system, control panel, gas turbine engine exhaust ejector assembly and pneumatic system on the power unit. The AGPU will also undergo a complete turbine engine refurbishment. Procurement of the modified unit began in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2003.

AVIATION TURBINE ENGINE DIAGNOSTICS SYSTEM

The Aviation Turbine Engine Diagnostics System (ATEDS) is software hosted on a portable computer with an electronic interface device that uses artificial intelligence, an export system and an interactive electronic technical manual with detailed instructions for performing required diagnostic testing and electronic troubleshooting. The system provides an effective, accurate and reliable means of performing on-aircraft turbine engine fault analysis in a field environment. It will undergo systems integration through fiscal year 2005 and will be ready for production beginning in the first quarter of fiscal year 2006.

MULTIPURPOSE AIRCRAFT SUPPORT SYSTEM

The multipurpose aircraft support system (MASS) will be used to reposition fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft and AGSE in hangars and maintenance areas. This equipment will provide a standard towing system for soldiers in the field. It will be logistically supportable and capable of on- and off-road convoy operations without being a secondary load. System development began late in fiscal year 2004 and will continue through fiscal year 2005. Several towing systems will be purchased from vendors who can meet the performance specifications. These systems will be rotated through selected aviation units, and the best system will be selected for fielding. Procurement of the selected system will begin by the second quarter of fiscal year 2006.

UNIT MAINTENANCE AERIAL RECOVERY KIT

The unit maintenance aerial recovery kit (UMARK), which replaces the aerial recovery kit (ARK), provides an aerial recovery capability for Army aircraft. The initial urgent need statement allowed for the procurement of 11 kits in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. By the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2005, the 240-kit fielding should be complete.

BATTLE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT AND REPAIR

Battle damage assessment and repair (BDAR) kits include electrical repair tool and consumable kits, high- and low-pressure fluid-line repair kits and fuel cell or skin repair kits. Eleven sets were procured, assembled and shipped within 30 days to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sixteen kits for unit-level maintainers were procured during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2004. A full-rate production review with decision authority is scheduled for the first quarter of fiscal year 2005.

AIRCRAFT CLEANING AND DEICING SYSTEM

The aircraft cleaning and deicing system (ACDS) is a self-contained, stand-alone, portable, lightweight, low-pressure aircraft and engine cleaning and deicing system. It is designed to collect and filter water runoff as required by the Environmental Protection Agency. The system operates at 4 gallons per minute and 300 pounds per square inch, making it safe for all aircraft, and can use virtually any water source, including salt water. Testing was conducted in fiscal year 2004. Production is scheduled to begin during the second quarter of fiscal year 2005.

AVIATION VIBRATION ANALYZER II

The aviation vibration analyzer (AVA) II will provide a rugged, portable and safe means of performing helicopter maintenance for both main and tail rotors. It will measure, record and process vibration and blade position information to diagnose and correct rotor vibration-related faults. Procurement of a new aviation vibration analyzer is based on vibration management enhancement program technology. The circuit card assembly of the current system is outdated. Procurement of the new system will begin in the third quarter of fiscal year 2005.

DIGITAL AIRCRAFT WEIGHT SCALES

The digital aircraft weight scale (DAWS) is a nondevelopmental, commercial off-the-shelf item available through the General Services Administration. It is structured to provide a lightweight, man-portable scale that gives aviation unit maintenance and aviation intermediate maintenance organizations the capability to weigh Army helicopters without first leveling the aircraft. This speeds weighing and deployment operations. Production and fielding of the DAWS was completed in fiscal year 2003.

NONDESTRUCTIVE TEST EQUIPMENT

Nondestructive test equipment (NDTE) is a set of four electronic test instruments that can be used to inspect aircraft components and structures for defects, corrosion or the presence of foreign objects without having to completely disassemble or remove components from the aircraft. Each set consists of one industrial X-ray, two eddy current testers, two harmonic bond testers and two ultrasonic testers.

The NDTE is a commercial off-the-shelf item procured either through an Air Force-Navy contract or directly from the manufacturer. Because of obsolescence, the eddy current testers, harmonic bond testers and ultrasonic testers were replaced between fiscal years 2003 and 2004.

CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE

The PM AGSE maintains both the Nondestructive Test Center of Excellence and the Corrosion Prevention Control Center of Excellence. The Nondestructive Test Center of Excellence provides technical support to the Army engineering community as well as to the warfighter in the field. It also provides technical support to all current weapon platforms by developing inspection procedures, conducting onsite technical assistance visits and training the Army National Guard on nondestructive testing. The Corrosion Prevention Control Center of Excellence provides a unified approach to corrosion prevention control by standardizing procedures and corrosion prevention compounds, providing technical expertise and coordination, maintaining a clearinghouse for depot maintenance work requests and technical manual updates and supporting the Army Materiel Command's corrosion program.

SHORT-TERM ACTIONS

To alleviate immediate operational support shortfalls, PM AGSE has?

  • Procured, assembled and shipped battle damage assessment and repair kits directly to deployed units

  • Push-issued unit maintenance aerial recovery kits to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom

  • Fielded shop equipment contact maintenance platforms to AVIM units

  • Overhauled the current aviation vibration analyzers for direct return to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, with a 24-hour depot turnaround

  • Begun reset of aviation ground power units and established theater repair cycle float for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom [Resetting the power units takes the equipment as it returns from an operation and conducts the maintenance needed to bring it back to a fully operational state. A theater repair cycle float is a pool of equipment that can be loaned to a unit in place of equipment being repaired.]

The path ahead for PM AGSE is changing with Army aviation. PM AGSE has designated several internal focus areas for meeting the challenge of change?

  • Finding a maintainer for AGSE

  • Reprioritizing AGSE products to meet soldier and mission needs

  • Developing evolutionary acquisition strategies with a goal to "field a Chevy, not a Cadillac"

  • Developing multipurpose systems that are configurable and reconfigurable

  • Pursuing modularization, flexibility, and interoperability in the design, procurement, and support of AGSE

  • Improving diagnostic and prognostic capabilities

  • Reassessing the level of repair analysis

  • Conducting a complete sets, kits, outfits, and tools onsite review for AGSE in the first and second quarters of fiscal year 2005

  • Ensuring that designs of new AGSE systems support a two-level maintenance process

PM AGSE continues to look at families of systems and systems of systems to fill capability gaps. Its top priority is providing the logistics soldier with the best equipment, reducing his workload and enhancing readiness in support of a diverse range of missions. Aviation logistics' keystone enabler?AGSE?is no longer forgotten.

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