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NSWC Crane Airborne Electronic Attack team recognized for developing robust, $13M cost-saving solution for Navy

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | July 30, 2020

CRANE, Ind. – A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) team of Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) and Electro-Optics (EO) scientists, engineers, and logisticians were recognized for providing the Department of the Navy (DON) a $13M cost avoidance solution. The NSWC Crane AEA P-8A Fleet Support Team (FST) received a Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) Award from Vice Admiral Miller for designing, developing, prototyping, flight-testing, and fielding this solution in less than a year. Vice Admiral Miller is the Commander of the Naval Air Forces.

The P-8A Poseidon is a militarized version of the Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon is intended to replace the U.S. Navy’s ageing P-3 Orion fleet as the service’s front-line anti-submarine warfare aircraft.  The P-8A has an active multi-static and passive acoustic sensor system, inverse synthetic aperture radar, new electronic support measures system, and a new electro-optical/infrared sensor.  The Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) system provides the capability to automatically and passively search for, detect, classify, localize, and track targets in blue water, littoral, and land regions. A component of the EO/IR System is the Turret Deployment Unit (TDU), positioned on the lower, forward section of the aircraft. The TDU consists of Turret Deployment Drive System (TDDS) components that move the AN/ASX-8/9 EO/IR turret in and out of the airstream and doors to seal the aircraft pressure box when the turret is retracted in the aircraft.

The TDU on the P-8A Poseidon was experiencing early failures due to high vibration levels in the airstream during flight. David Kuhlman, AEA Division Manager at NSWC Crane, says Crane provided a solution to this high priority problem for the Navy.

“The components in the TDU were originally supposed to last 33-thousand hours,” says Kuhlman, “but ended up lasting less than three-thousand hours before a failure due to the excessive vibration. This problem with the TDU also had the potential to cause additional damage to the aircraft upon landing as well as a safety issue for the crew. The Crane team had to propose a solution to increase the reliability.”

Scott Gamble, the Task Manager on the NSWC Crane P-8A Fleet Support Team, says the primary failure was excessive vibration causing the extend/retract relay to fail prematurely, the concept was to separate the relay from the extreme vibrations through the addition of an isolator plate to the assembly.

“With the TDU failures, the aircraft itself was no longer Full Mission Capable (FMC) for Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance (ISR) and it took maintenance crews several shifts to repair,” says Gamble. “This greatly decreased aircraft readiness and increased maintenance man hours, and strained the supply system. With the solution we developed, maintainers spent less time removing and replacing parts, and increased overall mission readiness for Task Force Commanders.”

Gamble says the original solution was meant to be temporary.

“The premise didn’t start off as cost avoidance,” says Gamble. “We wanted to solve the problem; initially, we intended to provide a fast, temporary fix. We chose a light, easy, and very inexpensive aluminum plate – and the results were better than expected. Life testing of the solution showed zero detectable degradation.”

Gamble says the relays themselves were originally going to be designed off the TDU entirely.

“We were testing our isolator plates – the short term solution – during this time,” says Gamble. “Since the isolator plates worked well, it became much more cost effective to use the plates than to go through the additional expense of rewiring and modifying the aircraft. We started out aiming to minimize failures and ended up creating a durable, long-term solution that had a large impact on cost, maintenance, and labor savings.”

Kuhlman says this is important to us, because it is important to the Navy and warfighters.

“To receive recognition from the warfighter community is a great thing,” says Kuhlman. “Crane has a long history – more than fifty years – of providing full life-cycle engineering capability in Spectrum Warfare to many naval aviation communities. We keep warfighter equipment reliable, capable and available to the fleet.”

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at crane_recruiting@navy.mil