Mobile Shipboard Power Plant Ready for Production

The new Shipboard Mobile Electric Power Plant under goes fleet evaluation aboard USS Essex (LHD 2). (U.S. Navy photo)


A generator on wheels is going to be a critical piece of shipboard gear on carriers in the years to come.

Shipboard testing finished in May on the new Shipboard Mobile Electric Power Plant (SMEPP), which will replace the stalwart but aging A/S37A-3, a SMEPP deployed aboard Navy carriers worldwide.

The new SMEPP is an Abbreviated Acquisition Program managed by the Aviation Support Equipment Program Office, and boasts increased electrical capacity to support aircraft with increased power demands (such as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye) and has the power type to support F-35 maintenance needs. The SMEPP also improves access for Sailors to perform on-vehicle maintenance tasks and remove sub-assembly modules. Additionally, the power plant’s higher reliability will result in lower fleet support costs.

The SMEPP is a drivable power unit with various electrical outputs that support existing and next-generation aircraft aboard aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. It supplements deck-edge power, powering an aircraft’s electrical system to support preflight and maintenance operations.

“The legacy Shipboard MEPP [A/S37A-3] is more than 20 years old, and it has reached its lifespan in terms of parts obsolescence and availability,” explained Stephen Barrett, lead Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division support equipment test engineer on the program office’s integrated program team (IPT).

The SMEPP went into production in April. Initial Operating Capability is forecast for December 2018, and deliveries to the fleet start in November.

The Navy has five pilot production units of the new SMEPP, which have already undergone a battery of contractor compliance tests by the manufacturer. In November 2017, program office test engineers received two of the pilot units at Naval Air Station Patuxent River to evaluate their functionality and conduct electromagnetic vulnerability and compatibility tests with aircraft. Then, three test team personnel and two of the pilot units embarked aboard USS Essex (LHD 2), which was docked in San Diego undergoing workups before deployment.

“We do tests here at Pax on selective aircraft, and then we transition to what we call FLEETEVAL,” Barrett explained. “We take the [support equipment] out and operate it with the fleet in the operational environment to validate its mission effectiveness.”

During two at-sea periods totaling five weeks, IPT members trained squadron maintenance personnel from four different aircraft communities—F-35B Lightning II, CH-53E Super Stallion, MV-22B Osprey and MH-60S Seahawk—on how to operate the SMEPP, observed them as they used it to service aircraft and collected their feedback.

While deck edge power aboard USS Essex was experiencing problems, two SMEPP pilot units were used to fill that role during the FLEETEVAL for the Marine Corps’ F-35 maintainers, allowing them to conduct preflight prep and maintenance on a squadron detachment of six aircraft.

“[The reception was] very positive,” Barrett said. “The F-35 community, in particular, was very happy about it, because all the aircraft are just lined up on one side of the ship, and they could just roll down and gain access to one of those very quickly.”

Written by Aviation Support Equipment Program Office.