Navy 'Air Boss' visits AIRLANT, observes aviation readiness cell

Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, center, commander of Naval Air Forces, is briefed on aircraft readiness in the maintenance operation center Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic headquarters Nov. 23.

Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces and Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet, visited the Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, Nov. 23, to meet with the AIRLANT Commander, Rear Adm. John Meier, and observe the activities of the Maintenance Operations Center (MOC). The MOC is a collective which includes Navy supply, maintenance, and engineering specialists, as well as private industry corporations partnered with the Navy, working together to assess and improve the operational readiness for aircraft throughout the Navy.

DoD-mandated COVID-19 mitigation measures were implemented throughout the visit, during which Whitesell and Meier participated in the weekly MOC-Aircraft-on-Ground (AOG) readiness teleconference for East Coast strike fighter (VFA) squadrons which provided an overview of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets’ mission-capable (MC) status, as well as a predictive readiness outlook. Throughout the teleconference, representatives from VFA squadrons discussed maintenance-related issues impacting their aircraft while other specialists in the MOC identified parts needed for repairs and formed plans to achieve and maintain “full mission capable status for the aircraft.

Teleconferences focusing on West Coast VFA squadrons, as well as EA-18G Growler and P-8A Poseidon squadrons, took place later in the day.

During the meeting with the MOC, Meier discussed the group’s impact on naval aviation mission readiness. “Your continued support to producing mission capable aircraft, and increasingly full mission capable aircraft, leads directly to improved lethality for naval aviation,” said Meier, who also emphasized the importance of sustaining MC rates. “We must keep our MC aircraft so we are ready in the event we are called to do other mission support.”

In October 2018, as the Navy was addressing aircraft readiness challenges that led to mission capable rates for Super Hornet and Growlers near 50%, the Secretary of Defense mandated that all services achieve an 80% MC rate for strike fighter aircraft — which included the Navy’s Super Hornets and Growlers — in the Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory (PMAI). The PMAI is the number of aircraft assigned for performance of a mission, and does not include test, training, or special mission aircraft, aircraft in development, or aircraft undergoing scheduled depot-level maintenance.

Later that month, the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE), a collaborative forum of leaders and stakeholders across the Navy, Marine Corps, government agencies, and private industry, focused on reaching and sustaining mission readiness, implemented the Naval Sustainment System-Aviation (NSS-A) initiative in order to identify and resolve the Navy’s readiness challenges. The NSS-A leverages best practices from the commercial aviation industry to update and improve the full range of the Navy’s aviation maintenance practices, from operational squadrons to depot-level Fleet Readiness Centers.

In September 2019, after a year of NSS-A-driven reforms across Navy aviation squadrons, maintenance and supply depots, and other key readiness-enabling commands, naval aviation reached the mandated 80% MC rate for Super Hornets and Growlers in the PMAI. Since then, the NSS-A reforms and MOC processes have expanded to address readiness and improve safety for other types, models, and series of Navy aircraft, including the E-2C Hawkeye, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, and Poseidon. In January 2021, MH-60R/S Seahawk readiness will also be incorporated into the MOC-AOG process.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Wood, the MOC Component-on-Ground Readiness Officer, discussed how the continued expansion of MOC-AOG to include more aircraft has reduced the backlog on parts to contribute to improving the mission capable status of various platforms. “The synchronicity of Defense Logistics Agency, NAVSUP (Navy Supply Systems Command) Weapon Systems Support, Aviation Support Detachment, and others to obtain parts faster and on a more consistent basis has made a difference,” said Wood.

Capt. Bret Washburn, director of aviation materiel readiness at AIRLANT, discussed the contributions of the MOC-AOG to Naval Aviation.

“Today was a great opportunity to demonstrate the full functionality and associated vantage point by the MOC-AOG to the Air Boss,” said Washburn. “Over the last 24 months, it [the MOC] has evolved into a synergy cell comprised of readiness and sustainment stakeholders that provide “speed to need” (resolving maintenance needs in less time) pursuing mission-capable aircraft … and identifying barriers for resolution.”

“This is my top priority,” said Whitesell. “My unit-level commanders want to be ready to fly, fight, and win when called upon, and efforts like NSS-A and MOC-AOG are critical in ensuring they will be.”