|Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael Guertin, left, and Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Timothy Christian examine the reeling machine Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Detachment Jacksonville Sailors recently tested and sent to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released)|
December 10, 2015 - A team of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) Sailors and civilians are landing the Navy a sizeable catch in both time and money with their work on reeling machines for Navy sonars.
The reeling machines, used by helicopters to lower and raise the AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency Sonar into and out of the ocean to detect submarines, are produced in France. That used to mean that machines in need of repair had to make a transatlantic voyage.
“When you do that, the beyond capability of maintenance cost – what it costs to send something to a contractor because we can’t fix it – was astronomical,” FRCSE Avionics Officer CWO5 Mike Guertin said. “It was $489,000 to have them shipped to France to be repaired.
“We’re expecting to repair three to five reeling machines per week, so that’s a savings of nearly $20 million – at least – in the first year.”
The sonar that the reeling machine deploys into the water has become a powerful tool in the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare arsenal. It can locate and identify – down to the name – potential enemy submarines under the waves wherever the Navy operates. So keeping them in the water searching for submarines is crucial.
To do that, FRCSE’s Sailors and civilians team up to get the job done. Sailors are trained to do Intermediate-Level, or “I-Level,” work that will get the reeling machines back to the fleet quickly. “I-Level” work on any Navy asset is akin to taking an automobile with a broken fuel pump to a mechanic, and having the mechanic quickly replace the fuel pump and get the car back to its owner.
Civilian workers at FRCSE do the in-depth work of actually repairing the broken part so it can be reissued to the fleet – known as Depot-Level work.
FRCSE will be the Navy’s only depot-level maintenance site – able to test and repair broken reeling machine parts, known as subassemblies.
“We’re looking at reaching initial operating capability by the end of the year,” FRCSE Business Management Specialist Mike Minton said.
Though the money saved is meaningful, perhaps more important is the precipitous drop in the time it takes to get a broken reeling machine back to the fleet.
It used to take more than a year to send the machine to France, get it repaired, and logistically ship it back and reissue it to the squadrons, according to Guertin. “Here, in most cases we’re going to be looking at one week to analyze the problem, fix it and return it.”
Starting the program nearly from scratch took Sailors learning a new set of skills to get the program up and running, Guertin said.
“It’s extremely technical, and there are a lot of small tolerances,” division member Aviation Electronics Technician (AT) 2nd Class Cody Hagewood said. “We’re kind of pioneering a lot of the engineering, even with the test bench itself.”
One of the biggest obstacles for the team to overcome, Hagewood said, was that all of the manuals were in French.
“We’ve been working with the manufacturer and the field support teams to basically rewrite the publication,” he said. “All the schematics were in French and used metrics.
“Instead of measuring pressure by pounds per square inch (PSI), everything was measured per square centimeter, or bars.”
Another petty officer on the team, AT3 Austen Seamans is studying electrical engineering in college. He was able to come up with a solution to a computer glitch in the test bench that could’ve taken months to resolve.
“We found there was a glitch with the computer software,” Guertin said. “He was able to diagnose the problem and help engineers up in Lakehurst, New Jersey find a solution we could share.”
The petty officers at Hangar 1000 are setting the standard, said Senior Chief Aviation Maintenance Administration Jerome Crawford of the Avionics Division.
“The way we’re going, these guys are writing the book on how to work and establish troubleshooting procedures on these machines,” said Crawford.
For Guertin, who remembers the first handheld calculators being introduced to his math class in the early ‘70s, the leap in naval technology is mind blowing. But the advancements are a bonus for both the Sailors, and the U.S. Navy as a whole.
“What this is bringing to the Navy is a new era of leaders of the future,” said Avionics Division leading chief petty officer, Maintenance Master Chief Petty Officer Fred Flaherty. “Our Sailors will get the Navy and the United States where they want to go for the next 20 years.”