frc east

New F-35 Modification Facility Brings Strategic Capability to Fleet Readiness Center East

August 22, 2019

 
Laser Shock Peening Facility at FRC East.

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — A recently-completed facility will bring a new strategic capability to Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) and the F-35B Lightning aircraft line next year. When the new F-35 laser shock peening facility is fully operational in 2020, FRCE will be one of two sites in the world that will use laser technology to strengthen F-35 structural components.

Construction of the $6 million facility wrapped in July, and the contractor providing the laser shock peening service will take occupancy in early spring, said Donald Jeter, portfolio manager of the F-35 aircraft line at FRCE. Under that timeline, the first F-35 aircraft inducted for laser shock peening would arrive in June to undergo the validation and verification process, and then the depot will begin work on the remainder of the F-35 fleet that requires the laser shock peening modification.

“This facility is a big get for Fleet Readiness Center East,” Jeter said. “It’s very exciting. Being able to perform this laser shock peening process adds a huge strategic capability to our depot. With it, we’ll be able to provide a critical support element to the F-35B program and act as a force multiplier for the fleet and the warfighter.”

The 16,000-square-foot facility comprises two bays, where the actual laser shock peening process will take place, and a connected area that will house the laser generator. The state-of-the-art laser shock peening process will allow FRCE to conduct heavy structure modifications that will strengthen areas of the F-35’s airframe without disassembling the entire aircraft, said Matthew Crisp, the F-35 Joint Program Office site lead at FRCE.

The process strengthens designs without adding additional metal or weight, which increases the aircraft’s life and reduces maintenance costs. It has been used on the F-22 Raptor and in manufacturing aircraft components including engine blades, Crisp said, but has never been employed for the F-35. Now, FRCE will use the technology to help Marine Corps aircraft reach their full life limit.

Aircraft maintenance professionals at FRCE will conduct prep work and some structural modification on the F-35s inducted into the depot, then turn them over to the contractor running the laser shock peening operations. The contractor will complete the process to strengthen the bulkheads and airframes, and FRCE will put the jets back together, perform all the flight test functions and get them back out to the fleet, Jeter said. The end result is aircraft that have been reinforced without adding additional weight, which would reduce the fighter’s capabilities by limiting its fuel or weapons carrying capacity.

Shot peening is not a new process, Crisp said, but laser shock peening is unique in that it produces a uniform result across the surface being treated. In laser shock peening, the surface of the media is first coated with an ablative layer and covered with a water tamping layer. A high-energy laser beam is fired at the metal, which creates an area of plasma on the metal’s surface. The impact creates a shock wave, which travels through the metal, and compressive residual stresses remain. This compression helps improve the metal’s damage tolerance, fatigue life and strength.

“(Shot peening) has been done for decades,” he explained. “It’s where you take a solid media, like glass beads or some kind of metal, and you hit the surface of an item – kind of like sandblasting. You just randomly throw it at the surface, and it creates all these surface dimples. What you get is a very inconsistent surface profile, because it’s not controlled.”

With laser shock peening, the process is very controlled, Crisp said.

“They create a laser beam that’s actually square, and the intensity is consistent across the entire laser beam – it’s the exact same at the very edge of the beam as it is in the middle,” he said. “They come up with a grid pattern and stack the squares up right beside each other, so the entire surface of the part is completely uniform. You don’t have the weak spots in between these areas that would then induce cracking later.”

Jeter said he expects laser shock peening to be a main focus of the F-35 line for the next four to five years. Once the first two aircraft have undergone the validation and verification process, it will be a sprint to the finish to complete modifications on the remainder of the F-35B fleet that requires this treatment.

“After that val/ver event, the aircraft will basically be nose-to-tail,” Crisp added. “We’ll completely fill every aircraft stall that’s here, and for the next five years, when one leaves another will come in. That’s critical, because this process has to be done on every single airplane that requires it.”

The workload does not include every F-35 ever produced, although it does include B and C models, and also encompasses F-35 aircraft owned by partner nations. FRCE will focus solely on the B variant, while Ogden Air Force Base in Utah will work on the F-35C models and take any F-35B overflow.

After the first round of laser shock peening modifications, what comes after that is still to be determined, Crisp said.

“I’m sure there will be some follow-on work,” he said. “And beyond the F-35 program, this is a little bit exciting, because this really is cutting-edge technology and we have it here at FRCE. I think maybe within the engineering community here, as people find out more about it, they may open additional discussions about how we could implement this on other aircraft lines. We might find a future capability we want to look at.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(source: www.dividshub.net)

 

FRCE Welcomes First Class of National Apprenticeship Program

August 13, 2019

 
Fleet Readiness Center East’s Apprentice Class of 2023 pose for a group photo in front of an AV-8 Harrier trainer on the depot’s grounds. The class marks the kickoff of FRCE’s participation in the National Apprentice Program, which will allow Fleet Readiness Centers across the Navy to recruit, train and retain skilled artisans to maintain the command’s future workforce.

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs

MCAS CHERRY POINT, NC — With an eye on recruiting and retaining aircraft maintenance professionals, Fleet Readiness Center East welcomed its first round of participants in the National Apprenticeship Program Monday, August 12.

More than 380 applicants competed for the program’s 40 available slots, which offer participants the opportunity to work as full-time federal employees, receiving pay and benefits, as they pursue a combination of education and on-the-job training. Apprentices will learn and work in FRCE’s Production Department, training in trades including machinist, pneudraulics, sheet metal, aircraft and mechanical parts repair, and airframes.

“Launching our local participation in the National Apprenticeship Program is exciting, because it allows us to strategically plan for the future of the depot’s workforce,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “Through the program, the depot will gain a workforce of highly skilled artisans who have received the most cutting-edge training.

“This initiative also benefits our local community by providing entry-level access to a quality, long-term career,” Nieto continued. “It’s another way FRCE is invested in developing opportunities for the local community while supporting our warfighter.”

“This is our first class of apprentices within the new program, and we are thrilled to begin,” added John Whitehurst, head of the Industrial Execution Department at FRCE. “This is the only program in the Production Department that takes an employee from the local economy, without aviation maintenance experience, and provides them with a planned pathway to becoming a journeyman mechanic. It’s a tremendous opportunity for both the candidates and for FRCE.”

The four-year National Apprenticeship Program – governed at the national level by Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and administered at the local level by each FRC – seeks to produce a steady pipeline of qualified mechanics ready to generate combat airpower for the warfighter. At the end of the four years, apprentices who successfully complete the program will have earned an academic certificate, trade theory certificate, and certification recognized by both the State of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor. In return, they agree to provide the depot with two years of skilled labor, the beginning of what will hopefully be a long career with FRCE.

In addition to maintaining the workforce, the program help the depot evolve as the apprentices bring in the newest production methods and processes, said David Rose, director of FRCE’s Production Trades Division.

“The apprenticeship program allows us to grow and develop individuals with the most current practices so they will have the knowledge, skills and abilities to advance the depot-level maintenance of our aircraft platforms into the future,” Rose explained.

“It’s a true investment in the future of our production efforts,” Whitehurst added.

Pay starts at $17 per hour, with incremental raises every six months for successful apprentices. Monthly performance ratings provide participants with feedback on job performance. This class of apprentices will take two semesters of academic courses at Craven Community College, along with workforce development classes, then start their training under skilled artisans. All told, they will gain 7,200 hours of academic, trade and on-the-job training over the course of their apprenticeships.

“They’re getting paid to learn a trade,” said Angie Cloyd, director of the Career Development Division in FRCE’s Total Force Strategy and Management Department. “We’ve made a very good program – and a very appealing program – to attract the best candidates. It’s a real motivator for most people.

“North Carolina is a very military-friendly state, so we’re very patriotic,” she continued. “I think that’s another motivation here that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the area. When people work at FRCE, they’re purpose-driven, and they know that what they are doing truly makes a difference. That’s a real attraction for a lot of people.”

While apprenticeships are not new to the fleet readiness world, the National Apprentice Program takes a new look at standardizing the program across COMFRC. The Class of 2023 is the largest single group of apprentices the depot has seen since 2012, Cloyd said, and it’s coming in right on time.

“We know we have an aging workforce, we know we have a lot of positions that will need to be filled, and we want to make sure we’re prepared for that with succession planning,” she explained.

COMFRC has estimated its component depots experience an annual attrition rate of about 7 to 10 percent. Having new apprentices come into the program and work their way to journey-level tradesmen is a strategic, long-range planning effort by the command to prevent a future decline in the labor force. The apprenticeship program also helps preserve the institutional knowledge seasoned artisans have learned through years of on-the-job experience, Cloyd added.

“We need that knowledge to stay productive and to put out good, quality products and work. It’s so hard to replace that experience,” she said. “All these people have different strengths they bring on board, and sharing that with the younger generation is critical. We don’t want to lose that. Our goal is to make sure we capture that knowledge from the veteran workforce and share it, so the next generation is ready to keep the fleet in the air.”

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, applicants must be U.S. citizens; determined suitable for federal employment; able to successfully pass a background check; able to meet the physical requirements of the job and pass a drug test; and possess the requirements for admission into the program’s educational partner. Applicants who are selected have the chance to develop into a career field with enormous growth potential.

“There are a lot of people who began their career with an apprenticeship program and have progressed and have grown tremendously into leadership positions,” Cloyd said. “You can be a supervisor, you can be an integrated product team lead – there are lots of opportunities.”

Jeff Nelson, head of FRCE’s Corporate Operations Group, agreed the apprenticeship program offers room to grow. He started working at the depot as a tool and parts attendant in 1987, and took advantage of several formalized training programs – similar to the National Apprenticeship Program – as he progressed through the ranks. Now able to serve as a mentor to others, he stressed that individual effort is fundamental to successful training and advancement.

“Participants in programs like these not only gain mechanical skills that are needed to produce aircraft, engines and components, but also acquire a broad perspective of how our mission supports the fleet,” Nelson explained. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the apprentices. You only get out of these program what you put into it. The application of the knowledge, skills and abilities learned through the program, combined with personal commitment to our mission, are the keys to success.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(source: www.dividshub.net)

 

A Final Salute to the EA-6B Prowler

June 13, 2019

 
EA-6B Prowler on a final flight.

When the last EA-6B Prowler made its final bank over the North Carolina coastline and touched its wheels down on the runway at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point this past March, a lot of people may have missed it. However, the occasion marked not just the end of the line for the unique old warbird but also the end of a long and remarkable run in U.S. combat aviation.

For nearly 50 years, the primary duty of the Prowler—which was the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military—was to quietly find and disrupt enemy radar, communications, and other signals to allow surrounding U.S. and allied air, land, and sea forces to successfully execute their missions. And the aircraft did just that through more than 260,000 hours of service and 70 different deployments, including in every major U.S. military operation over the last half century and against every major U.S. enemy from Ho Chi Minh to Isis [1, 2]. >>read more

 

F-35 Enterprise Delivers 400th F-35 and Fleet Surpasses 200,000 Flight Hours

June 06, 2019

 
F-35 achieves 200,000 flight hours. Allies for Cherry Point FRC East.

FORT WORTH, Texas, June 3, 2019 – The F-35 fleet has achieved 200,000 flight hours across global operations, a significant milestone demonstrating the program’s progress and growing maturity. Within the same week, the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) also delivered the 400th production F-35. >>read more

 

 

 

Nieto Assumes Command of FRC East

June 03, 2019

 
Navy Captain Mark Nieto assumes command of FRC East, Allies for Cherry Point.

CHERRY POINT — For the first time ever Friday afternoon, an officer in the U.S. Navy took command of Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

Navy Capt. Mark E. Nieto assumed the role of commanding officer during a change of command ceremony in hangar No. 3 aboard the air station. Capt. Nieto, who has been executive officer of FRC East for the past two years, took over the top spot from Col. Clarence Harper III, who retired Friday after 27 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. << read more