The Air Force plans to bring an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, better known as JSTARS, into the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, Robins AFB, Ga., for Programmed Depot Maintenance by Summer 2018.
The move would increase PDM capacity by demonstrating an organic depot-capacity proof of concept. If proven, this effort should help deliver needed JSTARS assets to operators more rapidly and efficiently and could provide a longer-term alternative to contractor-performed PDM.
“We’ve been focusing intensely for a couple of years on improving contractor-led depot performance, but aircraft are still remaining in depot too long,” said Steven Wert, the Air Force’s Program Executive Officer for Battle Management, who oversees these efforts. “We have to find ways to increase throughput and overall depot capacity, and we believe this option is well worth exploring.”
Inducting an aircraft, and potentially others in the future, at WR-ALC may offer numerous advantages. For instance, the program office, operational wings, functional check flight crews and Air Combat Command’s flight test detachment are all located at Robins AFB. In addition, WR-ALC has significant expertise with JSTARS; the community of potential JSTARS mechanics is fairly broad; and transportation costs would be reduced.
“Our dedicated professionals and mission partners have extensive experience in overhauling and modifying large aircraft like the C-130, C-17 and C-5 fleet. I’m confident our team can leverage this experience and help the JSTARS community improve aircraft availability,” said Brig. Gen. John Kubinec, Commander, WR-ALC. “Our team is excited about this opportunity and we stand ready to support this effort by working closely with the PEO and Northrop Grumman.”
The Air Force has a Total System Support Responsibility contract with Northrop Grumman that runs through 2022. The proposed PDM work at Robins would supplement, not supplant, the work being done at Lake Charles. In fact, the Air Force will need Northrop’s help to successfully execute this proof of concept.
The Air Force is taking this action to increase aircraft availability, reduce depot flow days and add depot capacity, said Col. Ray Wier, chief of the Battle Management Directorate’s C2ISR Division.
“We believe this is one way to help achieve the goal of reducing depot flow days and increasing fleet availability,” he said. “We’ve worked hard with all stakeholders across the E-8C enterprise to make sure we’ll be ready to undertake this work and prove the organic depot concept.”
This proof of concept will also help the Air Force better understand the costs of performing E-8C depot work organically. Start-up costs are expected to be minimal due to the synergies of performing the work at Robins, which already hosts the E-8C operational wings.
Officials expect the E-8C induction at Robins to occur by July 2018.