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Sep 14, 2021

MQ-25 conducts first air-to-air refueling with F-35C

The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) program completed its first aerial refueling of an F-35C Lightning II aircraft by the Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, as part of the Navy’s broader initiative to field unmanned systems that transform and enhance the fleet’s capability, capacity and lethality.

The integrated Navy and Boeing MQ-25 team, in coordination with the F-35 program, conducted the refueling flight Sept. 13 near MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.

“Every T1 flight with another Type/Model/Series aircraft gets us one step closer to rapidly delivering a fully mission-capable MQ-25 to the fleet,” said Capt. Chad Reed, the Navy’s PMA-268 program manager. “Stingray’s unmatched refueling capability is going to increase the Navy’s power projection and provide operational flexibility to the carrier strike group commanders.”

This event marked the third refueling flight for the T1 test aircraft.  During the three-hour flight, a Navy F-35C pilot from Air Test Wing and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) approached T1, performed formation evaluations, wake surveys, drogue tracking and plugged with the MQ-25 test asset at 225 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and altitude of 10,000 feet. From the ground control station, an air vehicle operator then initiated the fuel transfer from T1’s aerial refueling store to the F-35C.

Once operational, MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable carrier-based aircraft. Each unique aircraft platform will have a different aerodynamic interaction in the wake of MQ-25. Conducting refueling test missions with various aircraft allows the program to analyze data and determine if any adjustments to guidance and control are required.

Earlier this summer, the program completed unmanned refueling missions with an F/A-18 Super Hornet and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. Each aircraft platform is aerodynamically unique so how they respond in the wake of a tanker is different. Flying different aircraft behind the MQ-25 lets us assess how they will interact, Reed said.

Following this flight, T1 will enter into a modification period to integrate the deck handling system in preparation for a shipboard demonstration this winter. To date, T1 has conducted 36 flights, providing the program with valuable information on aerodynamics, propulsion, guidance and control in advance of the MQ-25 engineering and manufacturing development aircraft deliveries. 

The MQ-25 will be the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft and will provide critical aerial refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to support the Air Wing of the Future - a mix of fourth and fifth-generation aircraft, manned and unmanned platforms, and netted sensors and weapons. 

Along with organic tanking, the MQ-25 will pave the way for manned and unmanned teaming (MUM-T) of carrier-based aircraft that will extend the strike range and enhance maneuverability.  As unmanned tanking capacity increases, the manned tanker requirement decreases, promoting additional service life and capacity available for manned strike-fighter missions.

Sep 9, 2021

CH-53K King Stallion logs first successful fleet mission

The CH-53K King Stallion successfully recovered a Navy MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter from Mount Hogue in the White Mountains of California on Sunday, September 5. The two-day operation was the first official fleet mission for the Marine Corps’ new heavy lift capability, which is in the midst of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Ca.

“VMX-1 received a request for assistance from the Naval Safety Center about an MH-60S Knighthawk that suffered a hard landing near Mt. Hogue, Ca., at an elevation of 12,000’ Mean Sea Level (MSL) in July,” said LtCol Luke Frank, CH-53K Detachment Officer in Charge for VMX-1. 

The MH-60S Knighthawk was sitting on a high altitude ridge in very rugged terrain near the California-Nevada line on July 16 following a hard landing. The helicopter was supporting a search and rescue effort for a lost hiker. All four crewmembers survived without injury and were rescued the following day.

According to Frank, both the MH-60S unit and the Naval Safety Center had exhausted all other resources for recovery, including Army National Guard, Navy and Marine Corps fleet squadrons. “They all lacked the capability to lift the aircraft without an extensive disassembly,” he said.

VMX-1’s CH-53K detachment quickly examined the environmental conditions and conducted a quick feasibility assessment of support and determined that the CH-53K could conduct the lift. The CH-53K fulfills the heavy lift mission of the Marine Corps as it greatly expands the fleet’s ability to move equipment and personnel throughout its area of operations.

“After two weeks of exhaustive planning and assembling a team of more than 25 Marines and sailors from VMX-1 and 1st Landing Support Battalion from Camp Pendleton, Ca. we deployed two CH-53Ks to Bishop, Ca., and got to work,” he said.

The CH-53K was designed to lift nearly 14 tons (27,000 lbs) at a mission radius of 110 nautical miles in high and hot environments; a capability that expands the service’s range in supporting joint and coalition forces against potential adversaries.

The MH-60S weighed approximately 15,200 lbs. and was positioned in a tight ravine at nearly 12,000’ MSL and needed to be transported over 23 nautical miles to the Bishop, Ca. airport.

“After six months of flight operations with the CH-53K, the detachment had every confidence in the aircraft’s abilities to conduct the mission safely. Our main concern was the environmental factors ground support personnel would have to endure,” said Frank.

“This is exactly what the K is made to do,” he said. “Heavy lift is a unique and invaluable mission for the Marine Corps. Horsepower is our weapon system and the CH-53K is armed to the teeth. The entire team of Marines at VMX-1, 1st Landing Support Battalion, and NAS Fallon Search and Rescue were extremely motivated to execute this mission and we are all very proud to have completed this one flawlessly. To be the first group of professionals to complete a real-world, heavy lift/high altitude mission in support of a unit who thought all options were off the table is extremely rewarding,” said Frank. “This is sure to be the first of what will be many, many successful missions for this aircraft and for heavy lift squadrons.”


Sep 9, 2021

NAVAIR Change of Command: Peters Retires, Chebi Takes the Helm

Vice Adm. Carl P. Chebi relieved Vice Adm. Dean Peters as commander, Naval Air Systems Command during a change of command ceremony Sept. 9 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday presided over the ceremony after promoting Chebi to vice admiral. During his speech, Gilday highlighted the many achievements and traits that made Peters an effective and accomplished leader.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” Gilday said. “Our NAVAIR enterprise is foundational to generating American naval power where it matters most—overseas. Every day, over 45,000 dedicated Sailors and civilians and contractors support eight Fleet Readiness Centers, and 34 program offices across our Navy. Over the past three years, NAVAIR has delivered hundreds of new aircraft, tens of thousands of new lethal weapons, hundreds of aerial unmanned vehicles, many ground support systems for unmanned naval aviation vehicles, over 200 innovative training capabilities, repaired thousands of aircraft, thousands of aircraft engines, and hundreds of thousands of critical components to keep our fleet forward,” Gilday said.

Gilday also recognized Peters for his leadership.

“Over the past three years, I have watched him provide some of the most effective, innovative and masterful leadership in the entire Navy. Aviation readiness and its lethality are soaring like never before,” he said.

For Peters, the ceremony marked his retirement following a 36-year Navy career.

A 1985 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Peters earned his wings in 1986 and flew SH-2F helicopters on deployments to the North Atlantic, Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Mexico in support of anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and counternarcotics operations.

Peters later completed tours as a test pilot, instructor pilot and squadron department head, including a stint as commanding officer of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21. His early acquisition assignments included avionics lead for the MH-60R Seahawk, deputy program manager for the Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program, and assistant program manager for systems engineering for all Navy and Marine Corps UAVs.

Peters went on to serve as program manager of the H-60 and presidential helicopters program offices. In October 2014, Peters assumed command of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division and served as NAVAIR’s assistant commander for research and engineering. He remained in those posts until his arrival at Program Executive Office, Air, ASW, Assault, and Special Mission Programs. Peters assumed command of NAVAIR on May 31, 2018.

As NAVAIR commander, Peters was instrumental in leading NAVAIR into a new organizational structure known as a Mission Aligned Organization. The concept brings broader and stronger support for acquisition program managers and Fleet Readiness Centers, strengthens relationships throughout the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) and supports the priorities of the Air Boss and Deputy Commandant for Aviation.

“You'll recall that a little over three years ago, we made a commitment to each other, a commitment to build on the efforts of those who had gone before, but specifically to achieve readiness and speed, like never before and to do it by shedding everything—and I mean everything—that did not directly tie to fleet outcomes,” Peters said. “This mission aligned approach, as it would come to be known, would be very difficult, but absolutely necessary. We prioritized the health of naval aviation quality, reliability, training, and set out to make our Fleet Readiness Centers world class. We prioritized capabilities, focusing our research and test facilities on cutting-edge technologies that could be rapidly delivered to the fleet. And we prioritized affordability to ensure naval aviation could afford its future.

“Although there is still much work to do and opportunities for improvement in every area, significant progress has been made—better quality, high reliability, readiness, faster transactions, reduced costs and more equipment down range where it's needed. The credit is to you, our talented NAVAIR workforce and leadership teams.”

Peters shared examples of the exemplary work, resilience and grit demonstrated by those under his command during two very trying events—the first being the response to back-to-back earthquakes that occurred in July 2019 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, and the more recent challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In spite of COVID, you all met and exceeded all commitments and did it faster than ever before,” he said.

Peters then introduced his successor, and asked the NAVAIR workforce to welcome him aboard.

“Naval aviation requires our best efforts every day,” Peters said. “I commend to you Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, an experienced aviator, acquisition professional, a gifted engineer and program manager. He will absolutely lead NAVAIR to the next level in support of naval aviation. I ask only that you give him the same support and responsiveness that you provided me.”

Chebi earned a bachelor of science in computer systems engineering and a commission as an ensign from the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) and Navy Fighter Weapons School, and holds an executive master’s degree in business administration from the Naval Postgraduate School.

He served operationally as an F-14 pilot in Fighter Squadron (VF) 142 deployed with USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and executive officer and commanding officer for Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 192 deployed with USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) to Atsugi, Japan. During these tours, he participated in Operation Southern Watch and many Western Pacific deployments.

His shore tours include service as an aircraft and weapons test pilot in both Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (VX) 23 and 30 and as deputy for Strike Aircraft Plans and Requirements for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Chebi also completed numerous acquisition tours beginning with the USNTPS, where he flew the Mirage 2000 aircraft in France. His program management experience includes serving as a deputy program manager for the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office, program manager for the Precision Strike Weapons Program Office, and program manager for the Naval Integrated Fires Program Office. He also served as NAVAIR vice commander and as the Program Executive Officer Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I)/Program Executive Officer Space Systems. In September 2019, he assumed duty as the deputy program executive officer, F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office.

Chebi has 3,700 plus flight hours and more than 700 carrier arrested landings. He has logged hours in the F/A- 18 A-F, Mirage 2000, F-14A-D, F-15, F-16, P-51 and numerous other aircraft.

“To the men and women of NAVAIR, I could not be happier rejoining this team,” Chebi said.

“Our success is defined by delivering the right capability at the right cost, at the right time to ensure the fleet can successfully execute their mission and return home safely. Our job is clear, we must deliver integrated warfighting capability that is dominant, affordable and available. We must deliver that capability on an accelerated timeline.

“Our success depends on people and partnerships. Our combined military, civilian and industry teammates can and must work together with a sense of urgency to deliver the naval power our nation needs to fight and win today and into the future. We have a big job ahead of us and the right people on the team to get it done.”

Sep 7, 2021

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast reduces turnaround time on H-60 aircraft

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) has delivered its first two H-60 aircraft following full implementation of the Naval Sustainment System (NSS) on its Vertical Lift (VL) aircraft production line.

'The Vertical Lift team has truly persevered,' said FRCSE's Commanding Officer, Capt. Grady Duffey. 'Through the on-going pandemic and other hurdles related to space constraints, our team quickly adapted to the new goals, utilizing the pillars of NSS and knocked it out of the park. Their dedication to the mission is evident by their efforts to meet the Navy's need for these aircraft.'

On the heels of significantly reduced turnaround times (TAT) at FRCSE for the T-6 and F/A-18E/F aircraft, on August 19, the VL team completed a Planned Maintenance Interval-2N (PMI-2N), an in-depth inspection and maintenance event, on an MH-60R aircraft after just 135 days, a reduction in the overall TAT of 26 days.

Though the first H-60 with the reduced TAT was completed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the requirement was also met at FRCSE’s VL production line at Naval Station Mayport where the first aircraft crossed the finish line in on August 26, just seven short days later.

In early April 2021, the VL team was tasked by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to reduce the turnaround time for PMI repairs because of an increased need to return H-60s to the Fleet faster.

'The mandate for turnaround times for PMI events came from the NAVAIR Commander and applied to all H-60 production lines across the Fleet Readiness Centers,' said Bruce Mobley, FRCSE's Vertical Lift Production Line Director. 'The TAT was previously set at 142 calendar days for a PMI-1N and 161 for a PMI-2N, but were changed to 120 and 135, respectively. We achieved those new requirements with the delivery of both aircraft.'

The team clearly focused on NSS tenants to meet this initiative designed to maximize workforce productivity by focusing on people, parts and processes.  

Concepts like utilizing a production control center (PCC), a designated space where experts from all areas of aircraft support meet to address concerns and track progress, helped streamline communications - a pillar of NSS.

'Collaborative teamwork, positive attitudes, focus and communication have been the driving factors behind Vertical Lift's success,' Mobley said. 'The team has excellent chemistry and camaraderie. Everyone pulls their weight when faced with new challenges, starting with management and filtering down to production floor specialists. Our success is a true testament of our dedication to the mission despite challenges.'

During the two daily meetings in the PCC, the team proposed and followed up on Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), which pushed urgency and challenged traditional modes of thinking. The production team achieved timely, top-quality depot-level maintenance under cost by implementing quick and visible changes that addressed barriers and incorporated resolutions.

'All future H-60 PMI events will require the reduction in turnaround time,' Mobley said. 'And FRCSE is currently leading that effort. We are also looking to deliver four additional aircraft shortly, which is a big deal for our artisans. I am really proud of all we've accomplished.'

The MH-60 is a multi-mission helicopter deployed by the Navy in 2006. It is primarily used for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, but is also used to perform a wide range of missions, including search and rescue, logistics support, communications, humanitarian relief, medical evacuations, personnel transport and more.  

About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) is Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, employing more than 5,000 civilian, military and contract workers. With annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, the organization serves as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy, Naval Air Systems Command, and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers by maintaining the combat airpower for America's military forces.