Reduced costs, high on-time delivery rate stem from squadrons' collaboration

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
The final C-17 Globemaster III modified with a missile threat detection and countermeasures system at Robins departed Sept. 11. 

This latest endeavor closes out another successful chapter in the business of aircraft maintenance and modification at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.

For the last three years, 76 C-17s have arrived at the WR-ALC modified with a large aircraft infrared countermeasures system, or LAIRCM. 

The program was the result of two squadrons - the 559th and 562nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons - collaborating to form a relationship that has not only reduced cost and improved quality on the line, but also resulted in a 93 percent on-time delivery rate to its customers over that time period.

"The success of the C-17 LAIRCM modification line was due to the positive, can-do mindset of the artisans in both the 559th AMXS and 562nd AMXS that partnered together to implement the processes outlined in the Air Force Sustainment Center's Art of the Possible," said Michael A. Doubleday, 562nd AMXS director. 

Though this program has ended, another will take its place this fall, ushering in another era for LAIRCM work to continue here.

Teams will tackle a new project when the 559th AMXS assists the 560th AMXS, with installing LAIRCM on C-130Js from the Navy.

"We look forward to partnering with the 559th as we take on this new workload for Robins," said Jim Russell, 560th AMXS director. "There's no doubt our team of professional technicians will be as successful on the Navy LAIRCM as the 560th has been on the Air Force LAIRCM."

The first C-130J is scheduled to arrive in mid-November, with the 560th AMXS to induct nine Navy aircraft in fiscal 2016. The squadron will perform pre-dock and induction, as well as functional test flights on the aircraft, while the 559th AMXS will perform modification work. 

According to Russell, the first two inducted C-130Js will be validated and verified on the Navy process prior to moving on to a standard production process on the remaining seven aircraft.

Dave Nakayama, 559th AMXS director, added that the team will again bring their expertise to the table when Navy LAIRCM modifications begin in a few months.  

"That's a huge advantage - an advantage to Warner Robins and the customer, because we want to give the customer the best possible product at or below cost," he said.   Final LAIRCM Even a sizable cargo aircraft like a C-17 needs to be able to protect itself from enemy missile threats while downrange. 

Enter LAIRCM, a missile warning system capable of detecting an infrared (heat seeking) missile launch - deciding if it's a threat to life and mission onboard - and activating a countermeasure system to track and defeat that incoming missile. 

At Robins when a C-17 arrived, it would be inducted by the 562nd AMXS, with a combined LAIRCM team taking over. Mechanics would then prep the newly-arrived aircraft for 19 days of operations. 

Structural modifications included drilling holes into the C-17s skin so LAIRCM's lasers and sensors can be installed at precise locations throughout the aircraft. 

"We've vastly improved our quality of what we produce for the customer," said Larry Hamilton, 559th AMXS C-17 transition team lead. "The mechanics have improved their processes over the years, and they continue to do that now." 

By presenting what needed to be done to mechanics in the beginning, hours were reduced from 6,900 hours three years ago, to the final aircraft's 4,900 hour work package during its one month stay here.

That aircraft returned last week to Joint Base Elmendorf in Alaska.  Mutual support You know you've got a good team of mechanics when - whether it's working on a C-5 or a C-17 - the same quality products are produced no matter which hangar they happen to be working inside.

Once the C-17 Workload Transition Team was selected in September 2012, work began several weeks later. 

Jimmy Kelly, 559th AMXS Production Flight chief, explained that while the workload has presented the team with a set of unique challenges and opportunities, the greatest impact of the team arrangement was the special relationship established between both squadrons. There is mutual support between the two squadrons that wouldn't have existed if not for this collaboration of the last few years. 

"At the end of the day it's transparent to our customers which mechanics are modifying their aircraft," said Kelly. "What matters is that the WR-ALC is successfully working as a team to produce quality, on-time, LAIRCM-modified C-17s back to the warfighters."

There's much more behind the scenes than just showing up. C-5 mechanics working C-17 lines must be able to read and apply engineering drawings, according to Kelly, while having an extra level of scrutiny of their work; and once the team delivered a C-17, prior to waiting on the next aircraft, they would return to assist C-5 mechanics with maintenance. 

Mechanics working C-5s and C-17s must maintain proficiency on both aircraft, resulting in a "well-trained and disciplined workforce."  

"We're proud of the LAIRCM team for many accomplishments, but we're most proud of their ability to slash almost 2000 production hours and 10 flow days from the LAIRCM mod line to save costs," added Kelly, enabling Robins to stay competitive and continue LAIRCM work through fiscal 2015.

On the team's successful LAIRCM journey, they now look to the future with new expectations and possibilities. 

"The workload has meant retaining jobs," said Hamilton. "This is about growing Robins Air Force Base. This is about putting your name out there to customers that we're willing and able to take on your workload. We want to do it successfully, on cost and on schedule. We're really striving for that. I think this team has been more than successful at doing that."