Oct. 1998: Low on parts, no spare engines
Fifteen years ago this month, the 56th Component Repair Squadron, later designated the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron, hit a milestone. They had no engine holes in any aircraft and had one spare engine for the first time in five years.
The question is how did they get there?
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the world changed as did the security concerns of the U.S. In 1989, Eastern Europe broke away from the Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall fell. In February 1990, other Soviet republics parted with the Soviet Union. Operation Desert Shield began Aug. 2, 1990, followed by Operation Desert Storm, which ended Feb. 8, 1991. The next day, Operation Southern Watch began, which placed heavy demands on the Air Forces’ tactical assets. The Soviet Union was officially declared dissolved on Christmas Day that year. The U.S. expected a peace dividend since all of our enemies were defeated, which resulted in reduced budgets, which meant fewer parts for the Air Force.
Before the 1990s there had been three levels of engine maintenance – organizational or flightline, intermediate or CRS, and depot.
The organizational level of maintenance was mostly troubleshooting, and removing and replacing engines.
At the intermediate level, mechanics could tear an engine down and replace worn parts with new ones.
Depot level typically tore an engine completely apart and rebuilt it again with the only common part being the data plate.
Over time, the Air Force decided it could save money by going to two-level maintenance. The depot would do everything except put the accessories and external harnesses on the engine. CRS would put those on and the flightline’s role wouldn’t change.
In 1986, Pratt & Whitney introduced the F100-220 engine which was a major upgrade of the F100-200 engine that originally came in the F-16. It had a control module that self-trimmed the engine, which cut out the majority of flightline engine maintenance time. The Air Force paid to modify the old F100-200 engine to be the same as the F100-220 and was called F100-220E.
Given that Luke was a training base, it was one of the last to receive the modified engines. By Dec. 31, 1993, all of the 58th Fighter Wing’s aircraft flew with modified engines.
Operation Northern Watch began on Jan. 1, 1997. The flying demands of it and Southern Watch were a drain on parts especially the training wings that carried a lower priority than the deployed wings.
By February 1998, as a result of the chronic shortage of parts, the 56th FW had 39 F-16s without engines. That condition led to a massive number of cannibalizations and a lot of extra work for flightline maintenance personnel. The situation got bad enough that month, the wing began to fly on Saturdays just to make programmed fighter training.
The 56th CRS began to receive engine parts again in April 1998. By October, the squadron and wing climbed out of the hole and had one spare engine as a symbol of their success.
Courtesy of R.