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GPS repeater to shed time from Team JSTARS maintenance process

Photo shows two men in a lift drilling wires into the ceiling.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Hangars used for E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft maintenance at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, receive new GPS repeaters Dec. 2, 2020. The repeaters allow for reduced maintenance times of aircraft by preventing the need to tow aircraft out of the hangar for confirmation of successful maintenance to the navigation and radar systems. (courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Hangars used for E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft maintenance at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, each received a global positioning system repeater that will ultimately shave hours from the maintenance process.

Installation of the equipment wrapped up Dec. 2, making the setup now operational.

“The GPS repeater essentially functions the same as a cell phone repeater system often installed in office locations with poor cellular signal,” said Master Sgt. Justin Ciszek, Maintenance Operations Center superintendent in the 461st Maintenance Group Maintenance Operation Flight. “The repeater uses the incoming GPS satellite signal, amplifies it, and re-broadcasts into the hangars, which allows the aircraft to receive the navigation signal even when the hangar doors are closed.”

Ciszek said the technology was used at other bases where he had served.

The idea for buying the equipment was originally brought up at a daily production meeting when it was mentioned that aircraft were being towed out of hangars for operational checks after radar or navigation maintenance.

The thought occurred to Ciszek that the GPS repeater could improve maintenance of JSTARS aircraft, making the planes available for the mission faster.

“Locally, this will increase maintenance timelines by reducing aircraft towing and overall job timeline completion efforts, increasing available personnel and allowing concurrent maintenance inside the hangars,” he said. “From a bigger picture standpoint, the increased aircraft availability gives maintenance and the operations team a larger diversity of capable aircraft, enabling better predictions and strategizing for mission set, airborne tanker support, personnel and cargo movements.”

Ciszek said the equipment has great impact on the Air Force’s mission readiness as well, by enabling Team JSTARS the ability to provide aircraft to forward operating locations sooner.

Before, Ciszek said, if a repair was unsuccessful, the aircraft would be towed back inside and the process would start over.

Ultimately, Ciszek said, the GPS repeater provides an enhanced capability for the maintainers, increasing overall aircraft availability to the high demand fleet.

Tech. Sgt. Ryan Tarpley, 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s Communication and Navigation Section chief, said the GPS repeaters will be a valuable asset to Team JSTARS.

“The ability to utilize a GPS signal inside the hangar will assist not only Avionics with trouble shooting, but prevent the need to tow the aircraft in and out of the hangar each time we need to verify repairs,” he said. “That has a positive impact to nearly everyone on the flight line.”

Ciszek said additionally, the GPS repeater eliminates hours of maintenance needed to prepare for and tow the aircraft out of the hangar each time the maintainers need to verify a repair has been done to the JSTARS navigation or radar system.

“Innovating and growing with an ever-changing environment is necessary for unit survival,” he said. “Historically, maintainers are asked to do ‘more with less’ – more maintenance with less time and resources – especially around specialized aircraft in global high demand. We have to find ways to do business smarter and more efficiently to ensure maintenance is completed safely and on time so JSTARS are available to fly the missions that keep Americans safe.”