F-22 Sustainment

By Chris McGee Posted 8 November 2010

Since achieving Initial Operational Capability in December 2005, the F-22s have been patrolling the skies in critical areas around the globe. From the beginning of June 2009 to the end of May 2010, Raptors have been flown in support of twenty-two deployments, with a daily average of seventeen aircraft off home station per day. Raptors have been deployed to Kadena AB, Japan; Andersen AFB, Guam; and to the United Arab Emirates. The fighters and their pilots have participated in exercises such as Northern Edge in Alaska, Red Flag in Nevada, and Invincible Spirit in Korea.

Raptors are operational at Langley AFB, Virginia; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; and Holloman AFB, New Mexico. Hickam AFB, Hawaii, became the latest permanent home for F-22s in July 2010, when the base held an arrival and site activation ceremony as it received the first two of twenty Raptors as part of its operational future.

A key performance milestone in the life of any aircraft, but particularly for a system as complex and advanced as the Raptor, is reaching 100,000 flight hours. The Raptor fleet will pass that total in the first quarter of 2011.

Given the vital role the F-22 performs in projecting air power and considering that the US Air Force will have received 187 production aircraft by the time production winds down in early 2012, maintaining the fleet and keeping Raptors flying are the new imperatives. Lockheed Martin, as the F-22’s original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, and support integrator, oversees a comprehensive sustainment program in partnership with the US Air Force to ensure the Raptor fleet is ready to perform its mission.

“Lockheed Martin is focused on delivering affordable performance-based results for the pilots and maintainers and preserving our strong partnership with the US Air Force,” said Scott Gray, vice president of F-22 sustainment. “Our emphasis is on improving aircraft readiness, reliability, and availability at the lowest possible cost to the customer.”

As the OEM, Lockheed Martin works closely with the Air Force to integrate a total life-cycle systems management process to the Raptor fleet, enabling the service to manage the Raptor effectively over its life span. In managing the execution of the F-22 sustainment program, the company is teamed with Boeing and has a close working relationship with Pratt & Whitney.

“We provide a means for the Air Force to develop, implement, and manage the F-22 weapons system over its life cycle,” said Brett Haswell, director of F-22 logistics support and modifications. “We’re focused on meeting the warfighters’ needs rather than simply providing goods and services.”

Integration is the operative word for overall F-22 sustainment—merging what is normally separate sustainment activities into a unified whole.

“Integrated sustainment operations are completely different from the more typical federated sustainment operations,” said Haswell.

Federated operations distribute sustainment activities among several Air Force commands and air logistics centers, dispersing responsibility and accountability. The F-22 integrated approach offers a single point of accountability. Integration removes organizational barriers to communication, decision making, and program execution to optimize the allocation of resources.

“Integration translates into greater efficiency, lower cost, and enhanced responsiveness to the needs of the operators and maintainers in the field,” Haswell added.

An integrated approach to F-22 sustainment has been validated by a couple of noteworthy accomplishments. The F-22 sustainment team won the prestigious Contractor-Military Collaboration of the Year Award in 2008, given at the annual industry-government Defense Logistics Conference. The team was also recognized with the Performance-Based Logistics System Level Award in 2008 given by the US Department of Defense.

At the heart of F-22 integrated sustainment is the Integrated Maintenance Information System, or IMIS. This is a highly secure system that integrates the aircraft technical order data, diagnostics health management, engineering databases, and configuration management into a set of maintenance tools that streamlines F-22 maintenance operations at bases. IMIS also accelerates the overall sortie generation cycle.

IMIS enables maintainers to tailor automated technical order data modules based on a specific aircraft’s installed parts and operational flight program. The system also isolates faults and automates data collection. IMIS is the computing system on which integrated F-22 support capabilities are hosted and is integrated with air vehicle systems and other government and industry data systems.

“IMIS integrates the various maintenance aspects of a complex integrated F-22 into a single system that makes maintenance more affordable, simplifies maintenance tasks, reduces the required experience level of maintainers, and reduces the quantity of support equipment needed, all in a paperless environment,” said Tom Curry, Lockheed Martin director of support products for the F-22 program. “IMIS is the critical element needed to perform aircraft maintenance and to initiate flight operations.”

Sustainment services are provided to the F-22 fleet through an Air Force-awarded Performance-Based Logistics, or PBL, contract and a comprehensive weapons management program called Follow-on Agile Sustainment for the Raptor, or FASTeR. Through these contracts, the Air Force receives a highly integrated support system for the F-22 fleet that encompasses supply chain management, modifications and heavy maintenance, sustaining engineering, training, direct field support to the warfighter, and a seamless flow of technical data to the field via a 24/7 technical support center.

The PBL concept shifts sustainment from an approach oriented to maintenance transactions to one that focuses on aircraft performance. In basic terms, the contractor is accountable for providing capability or availability of the weapon system.

“The benefit of a PBL approach to sustainment for both the Department of Defense and the Air Force is an integrated, affordable performance package,” said Gray. “This approach is designed to optimize system readiness and meet performance goals for the F-22 weapon system through long-term support arrangements with clear lines of authority and responsibility. Experience has proven the warfighter benefits with improved operational availability and reduced repair cycle time compared to a legacy sustainment approach.”

The Raptor sustainment support system includes approximately 1,000 suppliers in forty-four US states providing parts and subsystems for the F-22. Lockheed Martin manages the workload and is held accountable for performance of F-22 sustainment activities at three Air Force air logistics centers, or depots. These depots include Ogden ALC in Salt Lake City, Utah; Oklahoma City ALC in Oklahoma; and Warner Robins ALC in Georgia.

Modifications and heavy maintenance of F-22s are managed between the Lockheed Martin Palmdale, California, facility and Ogden ALC. Depot repair of engines is balanced between Pratt & Whitney and Oklahoma City ALC. Component depot level repairs are spread across all three centers. Warner Robins ALC has received most of the electrical system workload.

The F-22 Technical Support Center, or TSC, at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Georgia, operates as a single clearinghouse for support information, works issues for the Raptor fleet, and provides near realtime fleet status updates. The center offers technical and logistics support to operational and training sites to analyze and solve problems in the field and is jointly staffed with members from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and active duty members from the Air Force’s F-22 program office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and Air Combat Command headquarters at Langley AFB.

An example of the TSC’s troubleshooting role unfolded in early September when the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley requested an alternate repair procedure for a Raptor’s left chine—the ridge above the inlets where the top half of the fuselage meets the bottom half. Since the unit was preparing for a possible hurricane evacuation and lacked the cure time to perform a permanent repair, it submitted an expedited action request.

“The TSC’s low observables technical support engineer and coatings and finishes engineer developed a temporary repair that could be applied quickly and would allow the aircraft to evacuate from the base,” said Marty Fritz, the TSC manager. “We responded with repair procedures forty-four minutes after receiving the request. The repair was completed that day, and the aircraft was ready for evacuation.”

Co-located with the TSC is the Raptor Support Team, or RST, a small group of Air Force and civilian government personnel tasked with managing various F-22 sustainment issues for the service. The team works closely with the TSC staff, staying informed of developments, monitoring action requests, providing information to appropriate Air Force units involved in the F-22, and helping ensure the right audiences are involved in teleconferences to develop solutions to field issues.

“We are heavily involved in crisis management and technical issues driving telecons,” said Air Force SMSgt. Rich Bailey, detachment chief for the RST. “We facilitate invitations for contractors through our TSC counterparts and ensure the proper program office, major command, safety, and field units are on board.”

Base-level service teams support Raptor operators and maintainers wherever the F-22 flies. These teams consist of a site manager, field service representatives, on-site engineers, mission support administrators, IMIS administrators, a supply liaison, and a training devices team.

As the F-22 continues to mature, the focus will zero in on further improving aircraft availability, reducing maintenance hours, and improving reliability and diagnostics, while enhancing efficiency and minimizing costs. Program officials seek to further mature PBL metrics, institutionalize partnerships, and lower risks. Doing so will optimize aircraft availability and enhance the F-22’s ability to project air power, deter conflict, and ensure regional and global security.

Chris McGee is the F-22 program communicator for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company.