US Army, March 19, 2020 - FORT RUCKER, Alabama by Lisa Simunaci - Reducing helicopter maintenance time and repair costs are a priority for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), and a new system at Fort Rucker will help meet that goal.
The Army’s first Modernized Flexible Engine Diagnostic System (MFEDS) is now operating at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
MFEDS is a test cell, assigned to AMCOM’s Aviation Center Logistics Support Command (ACLC), that assesses the flight readiness of engines after repair and before they are reinstalled on an aircraft.
ACLC provides maintenance oversight for more than 270 Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook aircraft that support the pilot-training mission and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.
“The high-density training mission at Fort Rucker accounts for 25% of the Army’s flying hour program,” said Col. Rick Martin, ACLC commander. “The potential of the MFEDS to dramatically decrease turn-around times from engine pull to reinstall can significantly improving operational readiness rates and aircraft availability here at Fort Rucker as well as the operational ground commander.”
MFEDS is capable of testing the T700 series engines used on UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches. It also tests the T55 engines mounted on the CH-47 Chinooks.
Fort Rucker’s training program launches more than 500 aircraft sorties daily. Maintenance to support that mission requires about 190 engine test cell validations annually. Before MFEDS was available, the current facility, a 1970s-era building with 10 cells, operated at an 80% non-mission capable rate over the past five years.
Without functional test cells, the aviation maintenance contractor is required to conduct on-wing testing, which equates to 16 hours of downtime per engine. That downtime means each aircraft that undergoes testing is unavailable for at least two days of training.
“We couldn’t meet demands with the current setup and building a new facility is a long-term and expensive proposition,” Martin said.
In April 2019, Martin approached Project Executive Office Aviation’s Product Development Office for Aviation Ground Support Equipment in search of a solution. By August, Martin presented an Operational Needs Statement to support the aviation training mission and to improve the overall aviation readiness at Fort Rucker by reducing the downtime associated with the T700 and T55-series engines.
From there, a collaborative effort kicked into high gear to secure funding, prepare necessary environmental assessments and complete the acquisition process.
“This was a true team effort that included the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Army Materiel Command, AMCOM and PEO Aviation personnel working together toward a common goal,” Martin said. “The reduced maintenance time equates to an annual cost savings of $5.6 million and regaining 3,072 hours of lost flight training time.”
US Army first Modernized Flexible Engine Diagnostic System (MFEDS) is now operating at Fort Rucker, Alabama