Developed in the mid-1960s, the E-2 Hawkeye remains the Navy’s premier defensive aircraft. It serves as an airborne early warning system (AEWS) to our nation’s aircraft carrier battle groups and the assets they carry, guarding against airborne threats for hundreds of miles in all directions.
The E-2D is the fourth variant manufactured by Northrop Grumman. It is technologically superior to its predecessors with radar capable of electronic and mechanical scanning, an integrated glass cockpit and advanced tactical workstations and mission computer.
To gain increased readiness and availability of the airframe to the fleet, Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) recently directed a review of the E-2D Periodic Maintenance Interval (PMI) process.
Less than two years ago, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) was instrumental in the achievement of another CNAF directive for the Navy to reach 341 mission-ready F/A-18 Super Hornets by 2020. The command reduced the number of Super Hornet Issue Priority Group 1 (IPG1) aircraft — aircraft down for a component — from 107 to 34 in just seven months.
As it did during the Super Hornet directive, FRCSW will conduct the E-2D PMI review under the Navy Sustainment System (NSS) in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The NSS is a Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) initiative designed to increase production and speed. SECNAV recruited the BCG to analyze and improve existing procedures for enhanced production quality and cost efficiencies.
“The E-2D program took an active role embracing NSS,” said E2/C2 Production, Deputy Program Manager Joey Baesas.
“As soon as BCG implemented NSS at Naval Air Station Lemoore, program leadership started implementing lessons learned from there. BCG will help identify our constraints and inefficiencies, and target those specific discrepancies to either streamline our processes or resolve those issues, and possibly reduce the PMI cycle time of the E-2D.”
Baesas said that the Fleet Support Team and the E-2/C-2 Airborne Command and Control Systems Program Office (PMA-231) will join FRCSW and BCG in analysis of the E-2D PMI specification tasks, and added that artisan input is a key factor in the program’s success.
“Artisan contributions are a big part of the process. The knowledge and skill of the floor is where it starts,” he said. “We have an immediate goal to reduce the PMI turn-around time (TAT) to 220 calendar days with additional reductions in the future, depending on tasks reductions in the specification.”
On the logistics and supply end, Baesas noted that the participation of Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) Logistics will significantly influence PMI TAT.
FRCSW performs two levels of scheduled maintenance on the airframe: a light periodic maintenance interval one (PMI-1) at FRCSW Site Pt Mugu and FRC Mid-Atlantic, and PMI-2 at Naval Air Station North Island.
PMI is currently based upon a 96-month cycle: PMI-1 completed every 48 months, and PMI-2 48 months later.
PMI-1 targets specific areas of the airframe (primarily the tail) where artisans inspect for corrosion, cracks, mechanical and electrical issues.
Though not a complete overhaul, PMI-2 is a major disassembly of the aircraft to the fuselage. Artisans remove the wings, engines, landing gear and tail. The aircraft’s corrosion preventive paint is removed and an in-depth metal assessment is performed targeting cracks, corrosion, exfoliation and other surface anomalies.
FRCSW is the Navy’s sole provider of PMI-2 events on the E-2 airframe, and operates a 154-member staff assigned to Building 460. Though it is too early to determine if restructuring to the building will occur for NSS purposes, the replacement of an overhead crane is already planned.
“Even though our capacity will increase, it may not coincide with increased aircraft inductions,” Baesas said. “There are a limited number of E2-D in the naval inventory, and PMIs are specific to a calendar cycle and are only needed when the aircraft reaches that cycle. However, we expect inductions to increase up to seven to nine per year. This future increase of inductions is part of the catalyst for decreasing TAT.”
In the course of PMI-2 inspections, artisans often discover damage beyond the scope of the PMI specification. Repairs authorized by the customer are called in-service repairs (ISR) and often are completed during the PMI event.
“It is the nature of the beast of overhaul and repair when you tear down and build up any aircraft you will always find surprises. Sometimes ISRs are pre-planned with the PMI because the customer is comfortable with our capability in resolving those problems at our level,” Baesas said.
Last January Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) returned its first E-2D to complete PMI-2 to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 120 (VAW-120).