Paris Air Show

Lockheed Martin sets life-cycle support goal

 - June 14, 2009, 9:11 AM

Never forgetting who it is working for, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has stepped up a gear in its mission to reduce the costs of operating aging aircraft and weapons systems, as countries strive to cope with deflating economies. Its solution is what it calls global sustainment.

“It’s no longer just about parts, maintenance and services,” executive vice president Rob Weiss told AIN, “the future is about integrated life-cycle solutions.” This means, said Weiss, managing the stages of the life-cycle in parallel, rather than in series, so lessons can be learned and applied quickly.

Weiss added that the company had become increasingly concerned that existing support models had been “falling short of expectations over the past decade, yet operational and maintenance costs have increased, and in some cases have more than doubled.” He also said, “Readiness is down 10 to 15 percent on some platforms.

“Global sustainment is a combination of the synergies of aircraft design, production and sustainment that provides engineering reach-back and total asset visibility with a systematic approach to problem resolution,” said Weiss. It is easier said than done, however, and often also depends on “effective government-industry partnerships in order to keep them integrated,” and on to what extent aircraft systems can provide information.

“Through the Lockheed Martin Sustainment Operations Center we can monitor fleet aircraft readiness for all our platforms,” said Kimberley Gavaletz, vice president F-35 sustainment. “Our capability provides connectivity through our technology infrastructure ties to production, engineering and the supply chain. In the past, these functions worked independently, but today we can provide a response to our customers in near real-time.

“We’ll leverage a lot of technology that JSF is implementing,” said Weiss. “The F-35 is at the leading edge and a pioneer in many ways, with autonomic logistics and prognostic maintenance in a global partnership.”

The company now has sustainment partnerships set up both in the U.S. and elsewhere–the most recently established being total life-cycle support for the Royal Australian Air Force’s C-130J fleet, in partnership with Australian Aerospace. Other programs include Hercules Integrated Operational Support for the UK C-130 fleet, Follow-on Agile Sustainment of the Raptor (Faster) and upgrades to the P-3, C-5M Galaxy and F-16 fleets–the latter covering the worldwide fleet.

But the process of really getting everything integrated through the life-cycle has only just started, said Weiss. “We’re just at the beginning now and expect over the next one to two years to get more alignment.”

Weiss admitted that the degree of data sharing to achieve the improvement goals is “an issue” with air forces, but this is apparently something that has been thought through carefully for JSF and other programs. “There are ways that enable the data to be used, mechanisms to protect the use such as making only the required data available and ensuring that only a limited number of organizations can view it,” he added. “In the future it will be all about accelerating the speed data at which can be transmitted, so it’s more real-time,” concluded Weiss.