NAE Focused on Readiness Recovery
At the 2018 Tailhook Association Reunion in Reno, Nevada, discussion focused on the future of carrier aviation, as well as the goals, requirements and progress being made throughout the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE).
The four-day event covered topics such as Naval Aviation’s relationship with industry and featured a brief from the Naval Safety Center, along with several panel sessions focused on helicopter operations, junior officer warfighting and the future carrier air wing.
The reunion concluded Sept. 8 with an aviation flag panel consisting of seven leaders of the NAE—a partnership of Naval Aviation stakeholders focused on readiness and advancing future warfighting capabilities at the best possible cost.
“We’re all aligned through the Navy, the Marine Corps and Naval Aviation to get after what our priorities are and to understand our issues, so we can improve things rapidly,” said the panel’s moderator, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander, Naval Air Forces. “This panel’s focus is to talk about the effort that each of us are applying toward that full mission-capable aircraft.”
Vice Adm. William Lescher, deputy chief of naval operations (OPNAV), integration of capabilities and resources, said it is not one particular issue or thing that affects readiness; rather, it’s the processes already in place.
“We’re changing the process, and it’s called performance to plan—it’s an initiative that we brought to align the command and control of readiness recovery and to provide a tool to let us focus our activity and get after readiness recovery,” Lescher explained. “The concept of performance to plan is to reenergize the Naval Aviation Enterprise in a way that hasn’t been seen in a number of years—reenergize it by having a single, supported commander, a single, empowered process owner to drive and be accountable for accelerated readiness recovery.”
Miller, Naval Aviation’s Air Boss, is that single process owner.
The leaders discussed their united efforts to recover and generate readiness, acknowledging the need for close collaboration between industry partners and Naval Aviation.
“We have to strengthen our partnership with industry,” said Vice Adm. Dean Peters, commander, Naval Air Systems Command. “We have to renew our relationships, ensure transparency, and that everything we do as a combined government and industry team is focused on up aircraft.”
Rear Adm. Scott Conn, director, Air Warfare, OPNAV, who leads Naval Aviation’s efforts to balance warfighting requirements with available funds, echoed Peter’s desire to align industry partners and readiness recovery efforts.
“The money is there. It’s coming to the squadrons. So I don’t think we will be able to continue to buy our way out of this,” Conn said. “We, and I mean everyone in this room, will have to work together to attack the processes and find the efficiencies.”
Peters addressed the need to tackle readiness, specifically, the functions of reliability, asset management, maintenance capability and supply.
“Our aircraft—the components on those aircraft—are failing much sooner than they were predicted to,” Peters said. “We’re missing something in our design review process and the way we test and field those aircraft. We have to do better. That’s just one of the high-leverage activities that we are doing from the technical side.”
Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps, said leaders throughout the fleet must continue to work together toward readiness recovery.
“Before we buy any aircraft or look at any gear, we look at filling up our readiness accounts,” Rudder said. “It means that we want to make sure the [maintenance] depots have what they need to produce a good product, but we didn’t do that very well over the past few years. Now we are. It’s hiring the right people and producing good products.”
Rear Adm. Michael Zarkowski, commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, addressed Naval Aviation maintenance capabilities, in particular, the expectations of personnel who fly the aircraft.
“All of the [junior officers] and midgrade officers should expect from us aircraft out of our PMI [planned maintenance interval] lines, out of our rework and our mod[ification] lines that are quality aircraft, delivered to you on time and ready to go,” Zarkowski said.
While the leaders discussed the benefits of up aircraft and readily available parts, Rear Adm. William Crane, commander, Naval Air Force Reserve, explained putting the right people in the right jobs is critical on the road to recovery.
“My focus to increase readiness is on the enlisted side—the culture and the skillset piece,” Crane said. “Fit and fill, to explain, that means we have a billet, and we fill it with a Sailor (that is goodness), but we would be better served at a readiness level if this Sailor fit the job requirements—someone who can work on the aircraft they are assigned to. We are making some policy process changes on that so we get good fits and are maximizing their experiences.”
Rear Adm. Richard Duke Heinz, commander, Naval Supply Systems Command, who oversees supply support for naval aircraft, ships and submarines worldwide, gave the audience a brief overview of supply efforts across Naval Aviation.
“We manage a global supply chain of $30 billion of repair parts that equates to about 30 million individual components or parts,” Heinz said. “A third of that inventory is with the fleet—on a flight line or with supply on a carrier—a third of that is in a warehouse—broken and waiting to get fixed or fixed and waiting to be reissued—and the last third is in the repair cycle. Our challenge, as the panel has alluded to, is the capacity to get those parts fixed and return them faster.”
Heinz explained investments have been made in capacity and capability with industry as a means to strengthen partnerships, a reoccurring theme throughout the panel.
After the panelists’ remarks, audience members asked questions on issues such as live, virtual and constructive training, the cannibalization rates of aircraft components and the retention rates of talented operators and pilots.
“We are moving forward to repair our parts, all of this with one goal in mind, and that’s more up aircraft that can fight and win tonight,” Miller said. “We are aligned, committed and focused to get that done as rapidly as possible.”
Gulianna Dunn is a communications specialist with Naval Aviation Enterprise Public Affairs.
Tremel Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross
Lt. Cmdr. Michael “Mob” Tremel was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Navy’s Air Boss Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander, Naval Air Forces, for his actions last year in Syria. The Distinguished Flying Cross is given for heroism or extraordinary achievement during aerial flights and was awarded to Tremel during the 2018 Tailhook Association Reunion, in Reno, Nev.
“While monitoring a Russian SU-35 Flanker operating above him, Lt. Cmdr. Tremel identified a Syrian SU-22 Fitter closing quickly on the coalition ground force. He executed three warning passes with flares, but the Fitter disregarded the warnings and delivered ordnance on the coalition ground force,” the award citation states. “Tremel immediately fired two air-to-air missiles that destroyed the Fitter and protected the coalition force from further threat.”
The last air-to-air kill for a U.S. Navy pilot before Tremel’s was Feb. 7, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm when a Navy F-14 Tomcat shot down an Iraqi Air Force Mi-8 helicopter with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.