Naval Aviation Maintenance Center for Excellence Lemoore

Tackling Long-Term Down Super Hornets

Naval Aviation Maintenance Center for Excellence (NAMCE) Lemoore occupies a 73,800-square foot air-conditioned tension fabric structure that accommodates 12 maintenance stations. Each station is equipped with all the tools required to perform aircraft maintenance and full-wrap fall protection for the maintainers. (U.S. Navy photos by AE1 Richard Blank)

The team at Naval Aviation Maintenance Center for Excellence (NAMCE) Lemoore assesses, preserves and builds long-term down aircraft—playing a major role in giving fleet squadrons the mission-capable aircraft they need.

Naval Aviation Enterprise initiative, NAMCE was established in July 2018 as a formal detachment under Strike Fighter Wing Pacific to improve F/A-18E/F Super Hornet material readiness and the knowledge, skills and experience of junior enlisted Sailors conducting maintenance on the flight line.

While the initial focus was on training, maintenance became the No. 1 priority last fall in response to initiatives under the Naval Sustainment System.

“NAMCE’s mission is to take all the long-term down aircraft on board NAS Lemoore and reconstitute them into flyable assets,” said Capt. Jim Bates, commodore, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific.

Designed to reduce squadrons’ excess planned authorized aircraft (PAA) inventory, NAMCE removes the administrative burden of long-term down aircraft and serves as a clearinghouse, Bates explained.

Fighter squadrons are assigned a PAA of 10-12. Before NAMCE stood up, some squadrons had 15 aircraft, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beko Rivera, maintenance material control officer for NAMCE.

“Transferring the long-term down aircraft to NAMCE makes a lot of sense and allows the squadron to manage their 10-12 aircraft,” Rivera said.

A depot-level event required every four years, a planned maintenance interval (PMI) includes a full inspection of the aircraft, particularly the airframe, and modifications to keep it current. Often, artisans find more corrosion than expected, and an engineer must assess the aircraft before work can proceed.

As squadron maintainers and depot artisans have discovered, each aircraft is unique based on its environment. Factors affecting corrosion include whether a squadron’s aircraft sits on the bow or fantail of the carrier deck, how often it has been to sea between PMI events, and how many cats, traps and hard landings it has experienced at sea, Rivera said.

As of May 1, NAMCE owns 22 administrative aircraft and 44 long-term down aircraft physically at Lemoore, many of which were reassigned from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122, the wing’s fleet replacement squadron.

Rivera compared the transfer of all those aircraft to a poker game when the chips are all in. “What did we win? Yup, a lot of aircraft and parts,” he said.

An ongoing assessment team evaluates the jets and parts, giving Rivera the data he needs to determine how much depot-level maintenance an aircraft needs, which parts need to be ordered and which aircraft can be preserved. Once parts arrive, the NAMCE contractor field team repairs and returns the aircraft to the squadrons.

Currently, NAMCE is capable of level-two preservation with the recent delivery of NAS Lemoore’s first 1010 oil preservation truck to preserve aircraft fuel cells. The goal, however, is to be able to preserve aircraft at level three, which requires a new facility with a controlled environment of less than 40-percent humidity, Rivera said.

In the future, if a fleet aircraft is unable to deploy, for example, NAMCE will induct the aircraft and give the squadron a mission capable aircraft that is sitting in preservation.

Built on the tarmac, NAMCE occupies a 73,800-square foot air-conditioned tension fabric structure that accommodates 12 maintenance stations, each equipped with all the tools required to perform aircraft maintenance and full-wrap fall protection for the maintainers.

NAMCE Lemoore has achieved several milestones in the last 15 months:

  • Built a temporary hangar capable of supporting aircraft maintenance
  • Established a 371-person contract field team
  • Oversaw the development and implementation of the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program Indoctrination Program
  • Achieved safe-for-flight designation
  • Passed the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection
  • Accepted 66 aircraft and built and transferred four aircraft
  • Removed the PAA aircraft from fleet squadrons and VFA-122, allowing all NAS Lemoore commands to focus on the mission

To date, NAMCE has returned four of its initial six jets to the fleet with four more due out before July and has developed a process to help NAMCE and the Navy prioritize recovery of these long-term down aircraft.

Rivera has also developed a business model and strategy based on data collected during the assessment phase of an aircraft’s induction into NAMCE.

He is working on creating a database that will use assessment information, outstanding technical directives, special inspections, existing discrepancies and depot-level work to determine how long it will take to repair and how much it will cost. This will give the Navy the information it needs to make calculated decisions in the recovery effort, he said.

Andrea Watters is editor in chief of Naval Aviation News.