NAVAIR

Navy and Air Force team to complete first E-6B SLEP modification

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Aug 3, 2010

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NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT NAVAL AIR STATION, Md. -- The E-6B Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271) here teamed with the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center’s 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (566 AMXS) at Tinker AFB, Okla., and In-Service Support Center in Jacksonville, Fla., to complete their first Service Life Extension Program modification on an E-6B Mercury aircraft June 15.

Jeff Base lead the modification, performed at Tinker AFB, which extends the E-6B’s originally planned service life of 27,000 flight hours to 45,000 flight hours.

“Due to the combined efforts and exemplary work provided by NAVAIR engineering and the artisans of ALC, the E-6B Service Life Extension Program has increased the predicted flight time by over 20 years for this necessary strategic airborne asset,” said Capt. Bob Roof, PMA-271 program manager.

The Mercury aircraft is among the last Boeing 707’s built and began operating with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons THREE and FOUR (VQ-3 and VQ-4) in 1988. They replaced EC-130 Hercules aircraft and started operations in support of the Take Charge and Move Out “TACAMO” mission, which provides reliable, survivable and endurable communications for the Navy’s Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile fleet.

The E-6 later assumed U.S. Strategic Air Command’s Airborne Command Post mission from the EC-135 “Looking Glass” aircraft. Over the last decade, several additional missions, and the communications equipment to support them, have been added to the E-6B. All of these requirements, combined with a high usage rate, forced PMA-271 to either extend the aircraft’s service life now or plan to replace it beginning in 2018. The SLEP modification will allow E-6B’s to continue operating through 2040.

The Navy’s In-Service Support Center provided all engineering support during the first modification. Bernard “Kip” Walker led the Navy engineering team during the first SLEP modification and during the three-year planning phase. With help from Boeing and Andromeda Systems, Inc., the team narrowed the original list of more than 100 critical locations on the aircraft requiring rework down to just the 14 locations reworked on the first SLEP aircraft. Fatigue Technology, Inc., also provided critical engineering, tooling, and training for the actual cold-working process.

The first SLEP modification took six months to complete. Although the modification was similar to work typically done by the 566 AMXS, the cold-working process directed by the Navy to strengthen the fastening holes required additional work and inspections.

The 566 AMXS conducted training prior to and during the modification to ensure all Navy requirements were met. The SLEP crew replaced original fasteners with interference-fit fasteners and cold-worked 14,383 holes while performing the twelve individual modification directives that comprise a single SLEP. The 566 AMXS also provided all logistics support, local program management, scheduling, and touch labor. The 566 AMXS will perform the same modification on the remaining 15 Mercury aircraft at Tinker AFB with the last SLEP finishing in 2015.

We are extremely pleased with the overall work performance and are particularly impressed with the partnership our Fleet Support Team is developing with the 566th leadership and artisans,” said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Kayser, logistics deputy for the STRATCOMM WING ONE. “Their support is critical to both current and future readiness.”

“We really aggressively pursued and accomplished success on the first SLEP aircraft,” said Bill Cain, 566 AMXS deputy director for E-3 services. “Although this airplane scheduled maintenance went longer than anticipated, everyone agrees that we have been able to hammer out a lot of the learning-curve issues, the bugs of doing this for the first time.”

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Photo 1 -- The E-6 assumed U.S. Strategic Air Command’s Airborne Command Post mission from the EC-135 “Looking Glass” aircraft. Over the last decade, several additional missions, and the communications equipment to support them, have been added to the E-6B. All of these requirements, combined with a high usage rate, forced PMA-271 to either extend the aircraft’s service life now or plan to replace it beginning in 2018. The SLEP modification will allow E-6B’s to continue operating through 2040. (Courtesy Photo)

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