Tirelessly Pursuing Full Spectrum Readiness
From Armor & Mobility, August 2018 Issue
Whether it is providing humanitarian assistance, meeting threats, or performing air-to-air refueling, readiness is at the forefront of the mission of Air Mobility Command. Brig. Gen. John D. Lamontagne and Brig. Gen. Steven J. Bleymaier provide an update on the current efforts, including modernization, innovation, and talent retention.
Brig. Gen. John D. Lamontagne is the Commander, 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center), Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. The 618th AOC (TACC) is responsible for operational planning, scheduling, directing and assessing a fleet of approximately 1,100 aircraft in support of combat delivery and strategic airlift, air refueling, and aeromedical operations around the world.
Prior to assuming his current position, Brig. Gen. Lamontagne was the Deputy Director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration for Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. In addition, he held command positions at the squadron, group, and wing levels. He was also assigned to the Strategy Office within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
Brig. Gen. Lamontagne received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1992.
Brig. Gen. Steven J. Bleymaier is Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. He is responsible to the Commander, Air Mobility Command for leadership, management and integration of total-force logistics, engineering and force protection activities across the global mobility air forces enterprise. His directorate also provides direct support to 18th Air Force, AMC’s sole warfighting numbered air force, and the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, the Air Force’s Center of Excellence for enroute, contingency response and partnership capacity building mission sets.
Brig. Gen. Bleymaier entered the Air Force in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science and commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has a diversified background in fighter and heavy aircraft and munitions maintenance, acquisitions logistics, legislative liaison and politico-military plans. Prior to his current position, he served as the Commander, Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Hill AFB, Utah.
A&M: Can you discuss some of Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) efforts to improve Total Force Full Spectrum Readiness?
Brig. Gen. Lamontagne: Full Spectrum Readiness requires improving equipment and tactics used to meet the complex threats being developed and proliferated among potential adversaries. To ensure we remain a ready force today and in the future, AMC prioritizes readiness, modernization, innovation, and talent retention.
To build upon our ability to respond, the command launched Exercise Mobility Guardian in 2017, which brought together more than 3,000 personnel from 30 countries. The goal was simple: provide the most realistic, real-world training our command has ever seen.
The training prepared us for extensive disaster relief operations. During the 2017 hurricane season, Airmen across the total force flew more than 1,500 sorties and delivered 28 million pounds of supplies to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, in addition to three missions providing relief to Mexico after devastating earthquakes.
At the same time, U.S. and coalition forces worked overtime to help defeat ISIS. U.S. tanker crews flew approximately 90 percent of the coalition’s nearly 46,000 tanker missions conducted since operations began in 2014.
Over the past six months, AMC also worked to prioritize training for high-end threats. To do this, the command began to reduce capacity in some areas to allow our crews to use those aircraft to train for more challenging operational problems.
The command demonstrated more success with the strategic airlift fleet because of our ability to offset some operational requirements by leveraging our commercial airline partners who are flying a larger portion of our strategic airlift requirements. We continue to find ways to reduce the operational tempo for our KC-135, KC-10 and C-130 crews to help us prioritize their high-end training.
A&M: As the Air Force readies for phase-in of new KC-46 assets, how is AMC working to prepare receiving facilities for the arrival of the KC-46?
Brig. Gen. Lamontagne: The KC-135 has been the backbone of the tanker fleet for six decades and will continue to remain a vital part of AMC’s air refueling mission for years to come. In 2018, however, AMC will welcome the KC-46A, the refueling aircraft that will provide joint and coalition partners with a new generation of enhanced refueling capabilities for our nation. The $44 billion contract will deliver 179 airplanes to the U.S. Air Force through 2028.
The KC-46 is a multirole weapon system that will be capable of refueling U.S., allied, and coalition aircraft and will be able to detect, avoid, defeat, and survive threats. It can be configured to transport 18 cargo pallets, 114 passengers, or 50 aeromedical evacuation patients.
The first KC-46 is expected to be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base (AFB), Kansas, in October 2018. McConnell AFB is setting the standard for integrating the KC-46 enterprise into the Air Force as the first main operating base. The wing has completed 16 projects totaling $267 million through fiscal year 2017 to prepare for the delivery of the KC-46A. This includes three new hangars totaling more than 297,000 square feet and valued at more than $150 million. Additionally, construction on the 37,000-square-foot KC-46 Regional Maintenance Training Facility was completed in March 2018 at McConnell AFB. The base also received the first KC-46 flight simulator in March 2018.
Since World War II, the 22nd Air Refueling Wing has had a global impact on our nation’s freedom, and that tradition will continue for years to come. Not only are they laying the groundwork for the next generation of air refueling, but they are also creating the next generation of Airmen.
Later this summer, AMC also expects to select the pilots who will fill the first two squadrons at McConnell. It is a great opportunity to merge the best tactics, techniques, and procedures from several different weapons systems.
A&M: As the cost of fueling the Air Force’s tanker and cargo aircraft fleets has grown, can you tell us about some ways AMC is leading efforts to minimize cost both operationally and through research and development?
Brig. Gen. Lamontagne: It’s important to understand that the Mobility Air Force is a $46 billion enterprise, with a fleet of more than 1,000 aircraft and 125,000-strong Total Force Airmen.
To remain the world’s preeminent mobility force requires rapid and meaningful innovation and investments allowing us to retain the strategic mobility advantage now and in the future.
One innovation that yielded savings and operational enhancements is the introduction of the electronic flight bag. EFBs are portable electronic devices that consolidate dozens of pounds of paper products into a single tablet. This EFB initiative, which began in 2010 for the purposes of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of AMC aircrews, also had the benefit of reducing weight in the aircraft and therefore reducing fuel consumption and costs on each sortie.
For every pound of weight removed from the aircraft, you save a certain amount of fuel on a given sortie. For instance, if you remove 120 pounds of paper from every single sortie, we calculated the command would save about $780,000 per year in fuel costs and nearly $3.7 million in printing and distribution within the Mobility Air Forces.
Cost savings were not the only added value with using the EFBs. Increased safety and knowledge enhancement are also added benefits for aircrews and aircrew support. EFBs enhance the crews’ access to technical orders. The tablets also contain electronic flight information publications such as navigational charts in addition to other digital publications, such as Air Force instructions and technical orders.
We must continue to modernize and enhance the Mobility Enterprise to meet new and emerging requirements.
A&M: With air-to-air refueling being the lifeline for U.S. combat operations around the globe, what are some focus areas the Air Force is prioritizing for efficiency in aerial refueling ops?
Brig. Gen. Lamontagne: Air Mobility Command is heavily invested in the upcoming delivery of the KC-46 Pegasus Tanker. This aircraft will provide the Warfighter increased fuel efficiency, maintenance reliability rates, and off-load capabilities. To ensure these efficiencies are brought to the fight, Air Force operators, maintainers, and test personnel are working hard to help the system reach its Initial Operational Capability in the shortest time. At the same time, we are also working to ensure we have the appropriate amount of KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft and personnel positioned properly to more effectively fuel the fight overseas. AMC continues to work to gain air refueling efficiencies by focusing on practical combat tactics and operational training and employing assets effectively to meet our national security objectives in a variety of operational environments around the world.
A&M: With the Air Force’s tanker and cargo fleet aging and enhancements to the KC-135, C-130 and C-17 airframe modifications coming online, please discuss areas such as propulsion and avionics upgrades that are helping extend fleet operational life cycles.
Brig. Gen. Bleymaier: Our propulsion systems across all fleets are performing well, with no immediate operational life-cycle limitation identified. However, the sustainment enterprise is always looking for economic opportunities to improve performance and gain fuel efficiency. An example of a reliability improvement modification can be seen on the KC-135’s F108 engine. These engines are currently receiving a CFM Propulsion Upgrade Program (C-PUP) overhaul during their depot maintenance cycle. During the F108 C-PUP, upgrades are made in the compressor and turbine section to improve fuel efficiency and extend engine time on the wing and out of the depot.
Conversely, most avionics modifications are made to either address new operational requirements, like automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast out, or obsolescence issues, like multifunction displays. These avionics modifications keep our fleets operationally viable in an environment that is changing at an accelerated rate. The speed of change is so great that our program office avionics teams are working hundreds of projects to ensure the next obsolescence threat is identified early enough for the acquisition process to procure a replacement before we reach the point of zero supportability.
Of course, the increased velocity of avionics changes means more time down for major modifications, which again is good for mission readiness but not so good for aircraft availability. Therefore, the sustainment enterprise spends a great deal of time developing precise master schedules to stack, or integrate, modification and heavy maintenance activities during the same aircraft nonavailability period. While not always possible, these deliberate scheduling processes have a positive impact on aircraft availability.
KC-135 Block 45 is the first stop in updating and modernizing that airplane to improve reliability and maintainability with reduced operating costs. The Block 45 commercial off-the-shelf Air Force acquisition program will extend the KC-135 as a viable weapon system beyond fiscal year 2040.
This modification upgrades or replaces 63 items such as analog instruments, which are considered high-maintenance or obsolete altogether, and completely remodels the inside of the flight deck with new liquid crystal displays, radio altimeter, autopilot, digital flight director, and other computer module updates. This modification takes your 1950s-era tanker and makes it a 21st-century asset that is as modern as any flight deck we have in the Air Force.
In most Mobility Air Force (MAF) fleets, aircraft structure is the life-limiting component. In fact, one of the biggest threats to long-term serviceability is corrosion. As our aircraft age, depot technicians are finding more and more corrosion in every heavy maintenance inspection cycle. Our sustainment partners in Air Force Materiel Command work tirelessly to prescribe the right inspection interval and repair techniques to mitigate the corrosion threat, but it continues to grow.
For most MAF fleets, that means extra time in programmed depot maintenance so the unplanned work, also known as “over and above” work, can be accomplished to remove the corrosion, replace structurally damaged parts, and apply corrosion-prevention products. The good news is that these efforts are protecting the long-term serviceability of our aircraft.
A&M: In terms of preventive maintenance and proactive diagnostics for determining future failure, what is being done to help fleet operability remain high?
Brig. Gen. Bleymaier: Here in AMC, the command’s mission demands are insatiable. Our operations run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with aircraft taking off every 2.8 minutes somewhere around the globe. This amount of activity requires the command to continuously look for innovative solutions that bring increased capability and ultimately increased lethality and readiness.
We are focused on transforming our maintenance enterprise to one that is more predictive and based on prognostics as opposed to diagnostics. This will allow us to drastically reduce the amount of unscheduled maintenance we perform on a daily basis. Big data and predictive technologies will allow us to perform all of our maintenance in a scheduled environment, improving aircraft availability tremendously and bringing direct impact to the Warfighter.
AMC is also looking at unique ways to partner with Lockheed Martin and Impact Technologies to do similar data collection and analysis on the C-5. That effort will focus on some of the jet’s key systems, like landing gear and air conditioning to enhance predictive maintenance.
AMC is taking a deliberate fleet management approach to maximize the health and service life across the mobility fleet of aircraft. This process, the Total Force effort to sustain and modernize the fleet, is a holistic approach designed to bring greater success to modernization and sustainment of the mobility fleet of aircraft than any single effort would.
The three lines of effort are to adjust the Rapid Global Mobility (RGM) recapitalization plan, execute a reciprocal transfer of aircraft, and provide common configurations, modifications, and capabilities for the C-17 fleet.
Information on the recapitalization of RGM aircraft is currently found in multiple sources, including reports to Congress, Core Function Support Plans, the Air Force Resource Allocation Plan, and various independent research agency reports. The RGM recapitalization plan is the first attempt to consolidate this information into a single source detailing the desired way forward for the MAF fleet. The recapitalization plan is the foundation of the future of fleet management, allowing the command to extend the service life and decrease associated costs.
The reciprocal transfer of aircraft is a deliberate approach to swap aircraft across components to redistribute the equivalent flying hours across the MAF C-17 fleet. If the MAF can systematically vary the usage of airframes, it will have a significant impact on the life span of the C-17 fleet. This process is already established with the KC-46 and will be a seamless part of employment.
Providing common configurations, modifications, and capabilities works to identify equitable and effective aircraft capabilities across components to enable additional sustainment and modernization plans. By defining unit capability necessities, it allows for a greater potential of reciprocal transfers. Future fleet-wide modifications will occur with a phased standardization approach to enable greater potential for reciprocal transfer of aircraft while maintaining unit mission capability with the goal of ultimately extending the service life of the MAF C-17 fleet.
As aircraft continue to age, the demand placed on our skilled maintainers will only increase. AMC must continue to align with agile commercial practices and work across the total force. As a nation, we can’t afford to wait for aircraft parts to fail. We can’t afford to put a “patch” on potential challenges awaiting the MAF. The good news is: As technology advances, we have opportunities to leverage best practices to accelerate our journey toward better predictive maintenance applications and a more effective force for the future.
More info: http://www.amc.af.mil