Updates | Cherry Point

FRC East Hosts First US Trials for New Cold Spray Tech

January 22, 2020


From Carteret County News-Times
Staff Report, January 22, 2020

Photo of cold spray technology demonstration at FRC East Cherry Point, NC

Jessica Templeton, left, a Naval Air Systems Command materials engineer at Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and David Stricklin of Compass Systems inspect the finished product following the first U.S. trials of a new cold spray technology application, held in late 2019 at FRC East. (Heather Wilburn photo)

CHERRY POINT —  Fleet Readiness Center East recently hosted the first U.S. trials for a new cold spray technology application and saw promising results, program officials said. If approved, the technology would help reduce turnaround times and decrease costs for repairs that were previously not possible using existing, approved cold spray systems.

Naval Air Systems Command materials engineers with the Advanced Technology Team at FRC East, along with representatives of VRC Metals Systems, completed the first U.S. field demonstration of an on-aircraft structural repair using a mobile, autonomous cold spray metallization system at FRC East in late 2019. According to a release from the maintenance and repair depot, over the course of the two-day trials, the team completed an on-aircraft repair to the windowsill of a V-22 Osprey and also conducted an off-aircraft repair to a surplus H-1 skid tube.

“The system operated better than predicted,” said Frederick Lancaster, lead for the Cold Spray Metallization Integrated Product Team at Naval Air Systems Command. “(It) worked as planned at five sites, in five different climates, at five different times of the year. Once it was programmed, the system worked without human intervention, on aircraft, and worked faster and more precisely than a human.”

The cold spray process bonds metal to metal in a relatively low-heat environment in order to deposit a coating onto a surface, or substrate. Solid metal powders are accelerated through a heated gas and directed toward a metallic substrate; the moving particles impact the surface and embed in the substrate, forming a strong bond.

The repairs completed during the pilot were consistent with those made using a stationary cold spray system, Mr. Lancaster said. Once approved, the new, mobile system will support the on-site repair of aircraft materials and increased mission readiness through rapid turnaround.

“With this program, we’re looking to bring structural repair capabilities closer to the aircraft, so you don’t have to take an aircraft apart to repair it,” said Jessica Templeton, a NAVAIR materials engineer at FRC East. “The end goal is to take the most cost-effective way of making these repairs, and make them available at the lowest level possible.”

The team has targeted parts like aircraft skins – the outer surface covering much of the wings and fuselage – windowsills and areas on the tail as ideal candidates for repair without removal from the aircraft. Being able to repair parts to standard without major disassembly can lead to cost savings that are “pretty tremendous,” Ms. Templeton said. The autonomous aspect of the unit means the work is done by a robotic arm which, after programming, requires minimal input from the workforce.

“Turnaround time is important, too. Once you start routing these parts through the shops, that adds a lot of lead time to your repairs,” she said. “With this technology, we would be able to repair existing parts to standards of airworthiness, rather than waiting for new parts.”

While the pilot testing was not conducted on an operable aircraft, and the repairs made are not yet approved procedures, the trials do give program leadership an idea of the system’s potential future capabilities for on-aircraft repair, Ms. Templeton said.

“It’s definitely where we want to go with the cold spray, and where we see the technology needing to go,” she said. “We’re trying to take this cold spray one step farther and go toward structural repairs.”

The demonstrations took place as an initial evaluation of the program, which is a joint effort between NAVAIR and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing Program. By using the FCT and technology already developed and qualified by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation, NAVAIR was able to shepherd the program to an advanced phase three transition status in less than three years for under $1 million.

That represents a cost avoidance estimated at $6 million over eight years of development, had the project started with the traditional Small Business Innovation Research program, Mr. Lancaster said.

This testing represents the first in a series of demonstrations and assessments that will allow authorities to determine the airworthiness of these repairs, Ms. Templeton said. The next steps will include fatigue testing, to gauge the strength of the materials and the bond; finite element analysis, which predicts how a product reacts to real-world force and physical effects; and other evaluations that must be conducted.


Ten Reasons the F-35 Fighter is Poised to have a Super Year in 2020

January 20, 2020


By Loren Thompson, www.Forbes.com
January 9, 2020

The U.S. Air Force variant of the F-35 will likely be the most ubiquitous tactical aircraft in the world through mid-century. Thousands will be built.

The F-35 fighter program continues its march towards dominance of the global market for tactical aircraft. The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have all declared their versions of the plane operational, as have Israel, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

The stealthy F-35, designed to be versatile and affordable, is rapidly becoming the global standard for tactical air power. No other fighter program approaches its scale or acceptance among the world’s militaries. That is great news for companies like BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and United Technologies, each of which counts F-35 as its biggest military program.

Having been associated with airframe prime contractor Lockheed Martin and several other corporate participants on F-35 since the program’s inception, I can remember the years when critics were assailing F-35 from all sides and its survival was by no means assured. Those times now seem long gone. Here is a brief compendium of facts explaining why 2020 will likely be another banner year for the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program.

Nearly 500 aircraft delivered. The ramp-up of F-35 production for domestic and foreign users continues. After producing only 66 planes during the first year of the Trump presidency and 91 during 2018, last year the program assembled 131 fighters in three variants. The plan in future years, already covered by signed commitments from the U.S. and foreign governments, is for over 140 F-35s in 2020, 160 in 2021, and over 170 in 2022. Last year was the third year in a row Lockheed met or exceeded its production goals.

Prices falling steadily. Every new production lot of the F-35 costs less per plane than the previous one, and less than government estimators predicted. Under an agreement signed with the Pentagon last year, the average price of each fighter will fall 12-13% between 2019 and 2022. The most common variant of F-35 will cost less to build in future years than the far less capable fighters it is replacing. The most expensive variant of F-35—the Marine vertical-takeoff fighter—now costs less to build ($108 million) than the cheapest list price quoted for a Boeing 737 jetliner ($122 million).

Meeting performance goals. F-35 far exceeds the survivability and lethality of legacy fighters it replaces in air-to-air, air-to-ground, electronic warfare, and intelligence-gathering missions. These performance features have been verified in over 240,000 hours of flight. In military exercises F-35 typically defeats over 20 adversary aircraft for every loss it takes, thanks to the inability of opposing aircraft to track it and the pilot’s unprecedented situational awareness.

Readiness rising continuously. The mission-capable rate of U.S.-operated F-35s rose from 55% in the fourth quarter of 2018 to 73% a year later. For the entire global fleet, including foreign users, the increase during the same period was from 45% to 65%. The aircraft’s main engine, built by the Pratt & Whitney unit of United Technologies, is achieving a mission-capable rate of over 95%, exceeding program reliability goals. Lockheed Martin has offered the government a life-cycle sustainment proposal that would guarantee an 80% mission-capable rate for F-35s at a price no greater than the cost of sustaining last-generation fighters. 80% is the government’s objective for all tactical aircraft.

A thousand pilots trained. As the year began, 975 F-35 pilots had been trained, as had 8,585 maintainers proficient in keeping the fighter ready for combat. The number of trained pilots and maintainers continues rising, while the number of bases around the world at which they are stationed has risen to over 20.

Operated by nine nations. Nine countries are now operating F-35 on their home soil. All three domestic military services receiving F-35 and several foreign military services have declared the fighter operational. In fact, four services have conducted combat operations using the fighter, including Israeli air operations over Syria and other neighboring countries.

Lower cost per flying hour. As production and performance risks have been retired, attention has turned increasingly to operational affordability. The Air Force has set a goal of reducing the cost per flight hour by $6,500—an objective it sees as critical to sustaining all 1,763 F-35s it plans to purchase. Lockheed Martin is already nearly halfway to that goal as a result of various savings initiatives being implemented. The company’s performance-based logistics proposal would guarantee an 80% mission-capable rate at a cost per flight hour of no more than $25,000. Attaining desired savings depends partly on the government taking a more flexible approach to supporting the aircraft.

Supply shortages abating. Maintaining an adequate supply of spare parts is usually a challenge when fielding new military aircraft. In October of 2018 37% of F-35s in the global fleet (allied planes included) were not mission-capable due to supply shortages. By the end of 2019 that figure had been reduced to 17%. Not coincidentally, the portion of F-35s rated mission-capable in the global fleet has risen during the same period from less than half to two-thirds. Over 90% of parts used on the fighter are performing at or above planned reliability.

Export sales growing. As production increases, a growing number of F-35s are destined for overseas customers such as Australia and Israel. Nearly 40% of the 478 fighters to be built under a $34 billion procurement agreement signed last year will be used by overseas allies. Meanwhile Lockheed Martin continues to meet success in seeking new foreign customers. A large number of the 220,000 domestic jobs sustained by the program are tied to foreign sales. The F-35’s main engine alone supports over 27,000 U.S. jobs.

Risks shifting to contractors. Under the performance-based logistics concept Lockheed Martin has proposed to the government, much of the cost risk associated with F-35 life-cycle sustainment would shift to industry. The company is offering a fixed price well below the projected cost for keeping the F-35 in a high state of readiness, and has begun competing suppliers to achieve improved pricing on key components. Government cost avoidance associated with the public-private partnership Lockheed envisions will likely prove irresistible during a period of flat to declining defense budgets.

To summarize, the F-35 program is progressing rapidly, and looks poised to dominate tactical aircraft markets for the foreseeable future. Although some challenges remain, mainly on the logistics side, the world’s biggest weapons program at this point looks to be a smashing success. 2020 should be another banner year.

Source: Forbes.com


F35 Rapid Response Team Mechanics Prepared to Deploy

January 08, 2020

Photo of FRC East F-35 repair team

By Heather Wilburn, FRC East

CHERRY POINT — When issues arise with an F-35 Lightning II, a team of highly skilled aircraft maintenance professionals stands ready to rise to the challenge and get the jet back in the fight.

Whether the aircraft requires in-service repair or battle damage needs mending, the F-35 Rapid Response Team is ready to pack up and go, according to a recent release from Fleet Readiness Center East.

“Anything that happens outside the depot – for the Navy, Marines or Air Force – anywhere around the world, they call us and we can deploy these RRT team members at a moment’s notice. We go out to wherever that site may be and perform that repair,” said David Thorpe, F-35 branch head at FRC-East, where the team is headquartered.

The RRT consists of expert, cross-trained artisans who hold journey-level, expert status in at least one trade, and no lower than skilled, worker-level status in others. Having team members with multiple skill sets allows for flexibility when determining which configuration of the team to deploy, Mr. Thorpe said.

“The F-35 Rapid Response Team is like a maintenance and repair special operations force,” he explained. “The concept is that we can send fewer people and they can help each other do the work.”

The flexible configuration means the team can pick and choose which artisans to deploy to a mission, based on what the technical requirements will be. Some jobs require more expertise in certain trades than others. For example, a recent RRT mission to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., called for a dedicated low observable coating technician and a painter. Those skills sets aren’t required for every mission but were necessary in this instance because the repair required high expertise in reapplying the coating.

“Sometimes the team is not just the airframer, sheet metal mechanic and electrician. Sometimes we send the painter, or the LO technician,” Mr. Thorpe said. “We also have quality assurance specialists who are ready to go when depot-level quality needs are required to incorporate the repair and sign it off.”

Richard Lee Stiver Jr., an RRT airframes mechanic, agrees cross-training plays a large role in the team’s success.

“You have to know the airplane,” he said. “I’m airframes, sheet metal, and LO-qualified. We have to have the drive and understanding to do the things we’re tasked to do, and we also have to be able to retain the knowledge from all the trades across the board that we need to know. That plays a huge role in our success as a team: knowing each other’s jobs, and the ability for us to work together.”

The recent mission to Edwards involved a repair in a location that presented accessibility challenges and therefore also required expertise in low observable coating and paint restoration. The team had to remove a large panel from the aircraft in order to complete the repair – a panel that was not designed for removal under normal maintenance action, Mr. Thorpe said.

“A lot had to work in concert to get that aircraft back to a mission-capable status. We’ve got a lot of experience in taking off these big panels and putting them back down, but there are often complications involved in that,” he said of the repair, which involved an aircraft in the F-35 initial testing, operation and evaluation program with Navy Test and Evaluation Squadron 9, Det. Edwards.

“There were a lot of unknowns, because this particular skin removal hadn’t been done previously, but we were able to get the job done without many complications,” Mr. Thorpe continued. Engineers supply the team with the appropriate technical data prior to the mission, and that provides a solid jumping-off point; however, work doesn’t always go as planned, especially with first-time repairs.

“We ran into hiccups, just like with anything that’s never been done before, and we worked through them,” he said. “It was pretty difficult, but we wanted to keep our foot on the gas. Our team worked long hours and weekends to produce a quality product, safely and as quickly as possible, to support the warfighter and meet the mission – and we got really good reviews on the finished product.”

The unknowns of each mission are part of what drives the team to work harder, Mr. Stiver added.

“Not knowing what you’re getting into, and being able to push through it, stand back at the end and say, ‘That was a good time,’ is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job,” he said. “This feels a lot better than going somewhere for 30 days and doing a mundane fix. We thrive on the challenge.”

Source: CarolinaCoastOnline.com


Tillis Secures $1.8 Billion for NC Military Installations in Defense Authorization Legislation

December 12, 2019


On December 11, 2019,  Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, secured the authorization of $1.821 billion for North Carolina military installations in the final National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. The legislation passed out of conference committee on a bipartisan basis includes funding for Hurricane Florence recovery.

“North Carolina’s military installations continue to play a crucial role in protecting the United States against threats all across the world,” said Senator Tillis. “I’m proud that I was able to secure more than $1.8 billion in authorized funding for North Carolina, which will support our brave men and women in uniform and help Camp Lejeune recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence.”

Sources: tillis.senate.gov, wcti12.com



November 13, 2019


From Carteret County News-Times
November 12, 2019

CHERRY POINT — Gov. Roy Cooper paid his first visit as governor to Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to tour the depot’s facility and discuss workforce development Tuesday.

FRC East is the maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider for Marine and naval aircraft aboard Cherry Point. With around 4,200 employees, it is the largest industrial employer in the region, generating more than $720 million in annual revenue.

As part of his tour of the facility, Gov. Cooper met members of FRC East’s first class of apprentices under the National Apprenticeship Program. The four-year program, which welcomed about 40 apprentices in August, offers participants a combination of education and on-the-job training. The apprentices receive free schooling and work as full-time federal employees with pay and benefits, and will be offered jobs at FRC East upon successful completion of the program.

“Some of them (apprentices) are veterans who retired and decided that they want to come back and do this kind of work. There are people who just graduated from high school and are working in an apprenticeship to get the kind of credentials that they need for a good paying job,” Gov. Cooper said during his tour Tuesday. “I’ve talked to people who started out here as artisans and have worked their way up to managing a lot of employees, so there’s clearly opportunity for advancement here, and I think there’s a lot of pride in the work that they do because of the importance of it, but also they’re grateful to get this kind of training that gives them the support they need for their families.”

John Olmstead, public affairs officer for FRC East, said if the first year of the apprenticeship program proves successful, the depot will consider continuing it in future years. More than 380 applicants vied for 40 spots in the program, and 37 apprentices are now receiving education and training.

The governor spoke highly of FRC East, especially as it relates to job creation and supporting economic development in eastern North Carolina.

“This is a hidden gem in eastern North Carolina for good jobs for everyday people,” he said. “…These are the kind of jobs we want North Carolina families to have, where you can make a good living. But it also requires some expertise, and this is why we’ve got to continue to invest in education across our state, because making sure that this workforce is ready, not only for commerce in our area, but this workforce is ready to defend our country. That is critical, and it’s exciting the work that’s been done here.”

Calee Holmes is one of the participants in the National Apprenticeship Program and said the fact Gov. Cooper has taken an interest in FRC East validates the work she and her fellow apprentices do aboard the air station.

“It makes me feel great that I’ve made it this far and that people are actually appreciating what we do,” she said. “…We’re being taught a trade that, unless you’ve been in the military, you’re not going to learn, so me being a stay-at-home mom and being brought out here and being taught from the ground up is unbelievable.”

Gov. Cooper also spoke on the state’s recent investment of $5 million for development of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft at Cherry Point. The F-35 is the military’s next-generation fighter aircraft with three distinct variants, and FRC East is the primary repair and maintenance depot for the F-35B variant. It can also service the A and C variants, and last year, FRC East achieved a milestone when it serviced and returned all three variants of the aircraft.

“I was a strong supporter of that effort for the state of North Carolina to come in and to provide funding because we needed to close the gap and make sure that it was happening here in North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said. “I think you’re going to see the rest of the country, also private business, looking to FRC East to provide help for them. They know they can get great work here done on time, so I think having this facility here, it’s a small price to pay for what we’re getting back in economic investment in eastern North Carolina.”

Gov. Cooper said he is proud of the state’s role in national defense and he hopes to continue to support the work FRC East does to further that mission.

“To make sure that this is a successful endeavor, that we have one of the best places in the country for repair and renovation of aircraft and that we are ready as a country to defend our people and that North Carolina can play such a big part in that,” he said. “We are indeed the most military friendly state in the country, and we are going to do everything we can to uphold that reputation.”