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NEWS | June 13, 2023

NAVAIR Recognizes NSWC IHD CAD/PAD JPO Team for Unprecedented Response

By NSWC Indian Head Public Affairs Office

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) Cartridge and Propellant Actuated Device (CAD/PAD) Joint Program Office (JPO) was selected for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Commander’s Award for Availability. The NAVAIR Commander’s Awards recognizes outstanding teams and individuals across NAVAIR who have demonstrated creativity, agility and accountability in delivering the capability the fleet needs on time, at an affordable price. The award recognized the team’s response to unprecedented quality escape that grounded more than 500 F/A-18B/C/D, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; E/A-18G, Growler; T-45 Goshawk and F-5 Tiger II training aircraft. CAD/PAD personnel developed inspection procedures, adopted agile logistics processes and systematically managed over twenty thousand suspect devices. Their timely and innovative efforts allowed naval aviation to rapidly return to an acceptable readiness posture, restore confidence in the energetics of the Navy’s egress systems, and ensure that naval aviators operate with the safest aircraft possible.

After notification of a potential defect by the vendor, the CAD/PAD team assembled core expertise and orchestrated an initiative to develop and validate radiography procedures to scan on-hand inventory and to verify each item to ensure that every egress system was 100% effective and ready for operational use. The CAD/PAD team, in collaboration with NAVAIR’s Precision Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA 201) logistics; Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet; and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic began shipping cleared replacement parts to several fleet maintenance centers and in less than 45 days, the Fleet was fully restored to operational status. In April 2022, an ejection seat manufacturer officially notified the NSWC IHD CAD/PAD JPO and the F-35 JPO of a quality escape that would prevent a CAD installed on the F-35 Lightning II ejection seat from functioning properly.

The quality escape was initially discovered by ejection seat technicians performing routine maintenance, who found that the seat initiator cartridge was missing magnesium powder. Magnesium powder, an energetic material, is required as part of the explosive charge for aircrew to initiate the ejection seat. The issue’s root cause stemmed from a United Kingdom Health Surveillance and Occupational Health requirement resulting in a change to the manufacturing process, increasing the potential for a production defect.

Working closely with the manufacturer and the F-35 JPO, NSWC IHD CAD/PAD personnel developed and validated a non-destructive procedure to quickly verify if suspect devices contained required energetic ingredients. In addition, Expeditionary Exploitation Unit 1 developed a portable radiographic inspection procedure to support on-site testing of aircraft for this particular defect. Utilizing NSWC IHD’s CAD/PAD Division in-service engineering agents as needed, the strategy was implemented around the country to support F-35 aviation readiness.

Subsequently, in July 2022, the manufacturer again notified the CAD/PAD JPO of this issue’s applicability to other ejection seats installed in U.S. military aircraft. The production processes were updated to address concerns, but out of an abundance of caution, NAVAIR directed an immediate pause of impacted aircraft operations until suspect components could be inspected. This decision temporarily grounded a number of F/A-18B/C/D Hornet; F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; E/A-18G Growler; F-35B/C Lightning II; and T-45 Goshawk and F-5 Tiger II training aircraft.

Additional F/A-18B/C/D, F/A-18E/F, and F-5 aircraft supported by the U.S. Navy’s CAD/PAD Foreign Military Sales program were also impacted by this event. NSWC IHD’s CAD/PAD Non-Destructive Evaluation Branch engineers and technicians immediately responded with around-the-clock support to inspect suspect items identified within existing stockpiles. Led by Steven Possehl, NSWC IHD Senior Engineer and Level III Radiographer of Record, these individuals developed additional non-destructive test techniques and implemented an aggressive schedule to restore confidence in the energetics of the Navy’s egress systems.

More than 4,400 items were screened and validated with no defects found prior to their return to usable inventory, much of which was quickly packaged at CAD/PAD JPO’s Consolidated Stock Point and shipped away from the region by truck, helicopter or Naval Air Logistics Office aircraft. With facility temperatures exceeding one hundred degrees combined with shifts in excess of 12 hours per day for six days each week lasting nearly a month embodied the resolve of the CAD/PAD team and ensured a steady supply of replacement assets.  An inspection and validation event of this magnitude has never occurred in the history of the CAD/PAD program. The logistics of locating, packaging, and shipping acceptable components while simultaneously leveraging conventional film X-ray, digital X-ray, or computed tomography technologies to screen incoming or on-hand components and return them to “ready for issue” stockpiles was unprecedented.

“The CAD/PAD Team competed against NAVAIR HQ, affiliated Program Executive Offices, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Commander Fleet Readiness Centers, and all other field activities,” CAD/PAD JPO Director Gregory Longworth said. “It’s a testimony to the dedication and selflessness of this team to support the warfighter.”

On behalf of the entire team, Longworth and CAD/PAD Navy Deputy Program Manager Jason Caron accepted the award at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Lexington Park, Maryland, May 31.

NSWC IHD — a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy’s Science and Engineering Establishment — is the leader in ordnance, energetics, and EOD solutions. The Division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support, manufacturing and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.