New Operating Model Transforms Supply

NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) has aligned and modernized core business practices and introduced a new Operating Model (Op Model) to evolve supply support to the fleet.

Three integrated weapon systems teams (IWSTs) piloted the initial Op Model concept in early 2019, and in April it was established across all aviation and maritime platforms. The pilot involved physically co-locating IWSTs with contracting divisions, which allowed for better balancing of competing priorities and enabled cross-functional collaboration between those divisions.

“We are making sure that we are in alignment with the Naval Sustainment System-Aviation initiative to work more efficiently, and we have done some internal process improvements to ensure we are mission ready,” said Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, commander, NAVSUP WSS. “Our new Op Model is enabling us to be more proactive, collaborative, accountable and action-focused.”

The model provides NAVSUP WSS with a new, more structured cadence of engagements and a variety of innovative digital tools to complement these sessions. The model is comprised of three parts: Production Standups (PSs), Readiness Acceleration Boards (RABs) and Readiness Focused Stand-downs (RFSs).

PSs are daily, action-oriented meetings held with working level subject matter experts from an IWST, contracting team and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The teams use a PS Tracker tool that combines various data sources to provide visibility and updated information on priority unfilled customer orders (UCOs) and purchase requests, enabling a more productive discussion of high priority parts and contracting status. PS meetings drive action to the RAB and RFS.

The RAB serves as an escalation path for issues that cannot be resolved in a PS. It is a forum for NAVSUP WSS and DLA senior leadership to address the hard issues and overall IWST health using the RAB Dashboard tool, which combines key performance metrics and action items. The combined PSs and RABs leads to enhanced business performance by highlighting and solving some of the oldest and most complex issues.

“Our goal is to increase transparency and velocity in decision making, and have solution-focused communication at all levels,” said Capt. Mike York, director of aviation operations, NAVSUP WSS. “Having leadership involved and engaged in the RABs has empowered our inventory managers and contracting specialists to become more innovative in their decision making and think outside the box.”

In addition to PSs and RABs, IWSTs run reoccurring health checks through RFSs, where stakeholders form a tiger team to brainstorm and solve specific issues affecting readiness.

Teams have tackled many issues such as reducing ghost casualty reports (CASREPS), identifying past due vendors and reallocating retail stock. By getting all the experts in the same room, reoccurring issues are resolved much quicker. Data analysts are also heavily involved in RFSs to ensure solutions are actionable and sustainable.

To date, the Op Model has proven to be an effective new business practice. NAVSUP WSS has realized several improvements in readiness metrics, to include reductions in high priority backorders, CASREPS, UCOs and contract administrative lead-time as well as an increase in mission capable aircraft.

Written by Jenae Jackson, a NAVSUP WSS Public Affairs’ deputy director. 

Logistics Specialist (LS) 1st Class Manny De Jesus, left, takes inventory of supplies aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) . Right, LS Seaman Recruit Ramel Quattlebaum does inventory in supply support aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64).

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

March-April 2000

A Canyon Catastrophe

A flight of two F/A-18 Hornets was on a two-fold training mission: one part dissimilar air combat training (DACT) and the second, low-altitude training. The day before, the squadron executive officer had briefed the fliers on the hazards of low-level flights and covered flight through canyon areas, emphasizing the danger of such flights close to the ground.

One pilot was the lead, under training, while the wingman was the mission commander. The DACT portion of the mission was completed without incident. Subsequently, the lead pilot determined the flight did not have sufficient fuel to return to base as briefed, which meant curtailing the low-level route. To conserve fuel the leader flew along the initial portion of the low-level route at 5,000 feet and 250 knots. When the low-level route intersected the canyon portion of the flight, lead descended into the low-level environment.

The mission commander lost sight of the leader as the flight commenced the route. Approximately one minute later, the mission commander observed a bright flash ahead and low on the canyon’s left wall. The flash then changed to what was perceived as a fireball followed by thick black smoke. The Hornet had crashed. The pilot was killed, the aircraft destroyed.

Investigators determined that the F/A-18 struck the canyon wall about 75 feet from the edge of a sloping ridge line in a high-G, high-angle-of attack, right banked turn. There was no evidence of engine or systems failure, nor any sign of an ejection attempt.

Grampaw Pettibone says…

Shouldn’ta happened, but it did, so learn from it. The lead pilot’s Hornet was in a hard right-hand turn within the confines of the canyon walls, and he either didn’t see the ridge line approaching or did not realize his flight path was below it. It’s also possible that he became aware of the ridge line too late to avoid it.

Would it have helped if the flight had practiced low-level maneuvers over less hazardous terrain before descending into the canyon environment? Maybe. The investigators did conclude that the lead pilot had insufficient low-level flight experience for operating in a canyon area. Plus, he hadn’t had enough rest before the mission. He was an extremely motivated aviator but considered by some to be overconfident. Not a good combination for pilots flying high-performance aircraft fast and close to Mother Earth.

Seniors in the chain of command, including the mission commander, could have exercised better judgment in handling the preparation for this flight.

Naval Aviation Focuses on Maintaining Readiness

An E/A-18G Growler and an F/A-18E Super Hornet launch from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).  (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Janweb B. Lagazo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft Programs, Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan serves as the lead for the engineering reform pillar of the Naval Sustainment System-Aviation. In his column below, he summarizes some of the process improvements that are designed to sustain readiness.

By Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, PEO(T)

A week ahead of the Secretary of Defense and Air Boss’s deadline, we surpassed an incredible milestone in Naval Aviation in September exceeding 80-percent mission-capable (MC) F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. That’s more than 341 Super Hornets and 93 Growlers ready to fight the fight at a moment’s notice.

We have proven to ourselves, our nation and our adversaries that we can surge in a time of need. But our work’s not done.

This feat was achieved by all hands—from maintainers on the deck plate to senior leaders—working together to achieve the same goal using the six pillars of the Naval Sustainment System-Aviation (NSS-A) initiative to identify and swarm the issues that kept our MC rates lower than 80 percent. With NSS-A, we put the right people in the right places, equipped with the right parts and the right processes and empowered them to achieve the mission.

Naval Aviation has always been focused on readiness, but our Super Hornet MC numbers hovered around 250-260 for nearly a decade. That doesn’t mean we weren’t combat ready, Naval Aviation always answered our nation’s call, but those numbers were not where we wanted them to be. With the current increase in readiness numbers, we have increased our lethality and survivability response.

We have institutionalized many processes that will continue to improve readiness, and we are doing things better. NSS-A efforts have been about challenging ourselves to work more efficiently.

The success of the NSS-A is a product of years of lessons learned and a culmination of the hard work of many individuals throughout the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE). We brought in aviation experts with demonstrated proficiency in improving efficiency, effectiveness and performance from the commercial aircraft industry. By collaborating and implementing their best practices, we have decreased turnaround times for maintenance, improved efficiencies at Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) and delivered parts to the fleet faster.

We also set up an environment that allowed open communication among the stakeholders, which allowed everybody to bring the brutal facts necessary to find the root cause of why we were not getting aircraft in a MC status.

I want to summarize some of these changes in each of the pillars that will sustain our MC rates for years to come.

Maintenance Operations Center (MOC)/Aircraft-On-Ground (AOG) cell: One of the best industry practices we implemented was establishing an MOC/AOG cell. This cell built strategic partnerships across Naval Aviation communities, focused on getting aircraft up faster instead of focusing on departmentalized internal metrics. This single-decision entity had all the enabling functions and organizations present to make decisions on a daily basis, and all were focused on the same goal.

Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) reform: Within the FRCs, we’ve created elite-level organic facilities that have adopted proven commercial practices to maximize quality and cost efficiency while minimizing cycle times.

Organization-level reform: The NAE refocused and balanced demand with optimal maintenance performance close to the flight line by empowering petty officers to oversee aircraft throughout the inspection process.

Supply chain reform: We are making sure that the right parts are at the right place at the right time by having various stakeholders form a single accountable entity responsible for the end-to-end material process. Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapon Systems Support continues to improve the supply chain with more responsive contracting, supplier integration, enhanced customer presence and improved collaboration with the Defense Logistics Agency.

Engineering and maintenance reform: We have developed an engineering-driven reliability process that improves how systems are sustained throughout their life cycle. Reliability engineering is another industry best practice applied through the establishment of a Reliability Control Board (RCB). Through the RCB, we identify the top degraders in a single list and strategically align activities throughout the NAE to prioritize and put the right people, parts and processes in place to address them.

Governance, accountability and organization: We have a single point of accountability for sustainment with the infrastructure to better support fundamental changes. The governance pillar identified issues that each pillar was having, and then swarmed, crushed the barriers and moved forward.

These six pillars impact all aspects of the maintenance process and require the expertise, experience and support of each and every member of the Naval Aviation team. We have aligned how we communicate and focus as one on the end game by identifying and solving the issues that limited our number of MC aircraft.

Keep in mind that while we were making these changes, we were continuing to fly, deploy and respond to national tasking. Some of the changes were truly a cultural shift, which took time to implement fleet-wide, but once the parts and processes were in place, we saw readiness improve steadily.

These cultural shifts are becoming the new normal for the fleet and the workforce, all of whom have bought into industry best practices. Embracing and continuing to improve our processes remains key to maintaining a MC rate of 80 percent or more.

Achieving the goal for the Super Hornet and Growler fleets was just the beginning. Now, our focus is on keeping those readiness numbers where we need them to be while improving readiness and safety for each type/model/series.

While the initial focus of the NSS-A was on the Super Hornets, we have already applied it to the E-2D fleet and have seen an MC rate increase of more than 10 percent in three months. We will continue to implement the NSS-A best practices across the NAE.

With the best practices implemented under NSS-A, we have the tools and visibility to gauge our sustainment efforts daily—so if they aren’t working, we will readjust and swarm the problem areas to maintain our sustainment levels.

Congratulations to the NAE on exceeding the goal and thank you for getting us there. As we move forward, it’s important to remember that we still have work to do—we now have the equally challenging task of sustaining these efforts.  

Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan is a native of North Carolina.  He graduated from North Carolina State University and was commissioned in 1986. He was designated a naval flight officer in 1987. Gahagan is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 101, Naval Air Station, Patuxent River. He graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1997 with a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering.

Gahagan’s fleet assignments include Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron One One Five (VAW-115), the Liberty Bells, and the E-2C Hawkeye Fleet Replacement Squadron, VAW-110, the Firebirds.

His acquisition assignments include Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, E-2C Hawkeye/C-2 Greyhound class desk officer, AV-8B Harrier Weapon Systems Program Office (PMA-257) integrated product team lead, E-2/C-2 Program Office (PMA-231) integrated product team lead, and Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Missions Programs (PEO(A)) operations officer.

Gahagan has also served at Patuxent River with the Force Warfare Aircraft Test Directorate and as the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) commander’s flag aide.   His ashore command assignments include Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Twenty chief test pilot and commanding officer, PMA-231 program manager, and Air Warfare Mission Area/From the Air Program Office (PMA-298) program manager.   His previous assignment was as NAWCAD commander and assistant commander for Research and Engineering, Naval Air Systems Command.

Gahagan’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two awards).

He is an aerospace engineering duty officer and a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College Advanced Program Management Course and the U.S. Naval War College.

Gahagan assumed responsibilities as Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft Programs in September 2018.

New Tools Developed to Mitigate Physiological Episodes

U.S. Navy photo-illustration by Fred Flerlage

Since the Physiological Episode Action Team (PEAT) has ruled out several causes of physiological episodes (PEs), they are developing tools to improve aircrew awareness and address maintenance-related issues.

Over the past six months, we have had significant success in driving the rate of PEs down. We have accomplished this by making extensive use of data analytics to identify sub-performing system components before they fail thereby preventing PEs in the first place. And when a PE does happen, we have equipped aircrew with tools to help them recognize onset and then mitigate the situation, ultimately ensuring safe recovery,” said Rear Adm. Fredrick Luchtman, Navy lead for the PEAT.

Several types of hypoxia trainers are in development. For example, the Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) Jacksonville (JAX) began training with a new, mask-off hypoxia trainer in July that will be used for all Navy and Marine Corps designated aviation personnel flying in multi-place non-ejection aircraft (story on page 22).

The Aircrew Survival Training Center at Naval Air Station Pensacola is demonstrating the newest hypoxia-awareness device for Naval Aviation—the On-Demand Hypoxia Trainer (ODHT) (story on page 23).

Engineers, scientists and medical professionals have ruled out contamination and other potential factors, such as electromagnetic exposure, and found no singular gross contributing factor. However, other factors may play a role in PEs such as maintenance-related issues.

To address this, the Hornet Health and Readiness Tool (HhART), uses data analytics to examine data points from multiple aircraft systems to predict when a system could fail. The computer program is already showing great success in preventing Environmental Control System malfunctions, predicting potential PE-causing aircraft, and has the potential to improve maintenance in other systems as well.

Since PEs happen when two very complicated machines—a naval aircraft and a human body interact asynchronously—teams of engineers are working on how to improve the aircraft and teams of medical professionals are studying the human system.

Physiological monitors are being developed and tested to record and measure what precisely is happening to the human body in different flight conditions.

Researchers across the country are working with aircraft cabin simulators to study how bodies react at different pressure changes. Flight surgeons are trained to handle PEs, so when aircrew do experience significant events, they are treated quickly and effectively.


Since 2017, the phenomenon of PEs has been Naval Aviation’s No. 1 safety priority.

PEs occur when aircrews experience physiological symptoms, which may impair their ability to perform cockpit duties, and can result from many factors, including normal operations in the highly dynamic operating environment, systems malfunctions and various human factors. Symptoms can range from dizziness to degradation of cognitive function, and they pose serious risks to aviators and maintainers.

The PEAT was created in 2017 with personnel and resources from the Naval Air Systems Command, Commander, Naval Air Forces, the Bureau of Naval Medicine and Surgery and the fleet. With the support of experts from industry and NASA, the team coordinates the work of engineers, physiologists and data analysts to employ a methodical, data-driven approach to devise and field best practices and procedures that mitigate the problem while developing long-term solutions.

Using a rigorous root cause corrective action (RCCA) analysis process, the core teams for F/A-18 Hornet, Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and the T-45 Goshawk training jet determined in 2018 that the onboard oxygen systems showed no contamination. The air was unaffected by asphyxiates, carbon monoxide or other contaminants.

The teams reached that conclusion after a 16-month effort analyzed 21,000 samples taken across 11 sites from aviators’ breathing gas, ground sampling and blood analysis. An independent panel of aeromedical professionals evaluated roughly 1,800 compounds and determined that none of the compounds played a role in any PEs.

While great progress has been made, there are thousands of people from more than 50 organizations including DoD, government, industry, academia, medical and research facilities, along with international partners who continue to focus on keeping aviators safe, so they can focus on the mission.

Written by Andrea Watters, editor of Naval Aviation News magazine.

New Mask-Off Hypoxia Training Delivered

Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) Jacksonville (JAX) began training with a new, mask-off hypoxia trainer in July that will be used for all Navy and Marine Corps designated aviation personnel flying in multi-place non-ejection aircraft.

The Normobaric Hypoxia Trainer (NHT) supervisor, communicates with Sailors during training in the newly operational NHT at Aviation Survival Training Center Jacksonville, July 22. (U.S. Navy photos by MC2 Nick A. Grim)

Capt. Theron Toole, then Commanding Officer, Navy Medicine Operational Training Center, and Capt. Leslie Kindling, officer in charge, Naval Survival Training Institute in Pensacola, visited ASTC JAX to observe an initial training session with the newly mission-capable Normobaric Hypoxia Trainer (NHT).

“The NHT provides the most realistic hypoxia training for these aircrew members,” said Kindling, who oversees the Navy’s eight ASTCs.

The NHT simulates the reduced oxygen levels experienced in a depressurized aircraft at altitude, allowing the aircrew to practice their emergency procedures while experiencing the signs and symptoms of hypoxia.

Hypoxia is caused by a lack of sufficient oxygen at the tissue level in the body leading to performance degradation. Symptoms of hypoxia include light-headedness, dizziness, tingling, euphoria and decreased visual accuracy. Training aircrew to recognize the symptoms helps ensure they can take action before progressing to potentially life-threatening situations while in an aircraft at altitude.

“I really felt the effects more this time around, especially feelings of disorientation and difficulty breathing,” said Aircrewman (Mechanical) 2nd Class John Booker, who was taking the hypoxia training qualification for the third time. Aircrew are required to take a refresher course every four years.

The NHT at ASTC JAX is the first operational trainer of its type in the fleet and has replaced the low-pressure chamber that was decommissioned in February 2017. Sailors assigned to ASTC JAX have been at the forefront of implementation and operational testing for the new trainer since its inception in summer 2018.

“As a staff, ASTC JAX became 100-percent qualified in only 18 working days, on top of the already established training schedule,” said Chief Aircrewman (Avionics) Scott Counselman, ASTC JAX leading chief petty officer. “Nothing has been dropped or moved. We began operational testing late last July, and the ASTC staff has been learning new operating procedures, assisting in writing standard operations and safety procedures, and conducting risk management analysis.”

The NHT attempts to simulate pilot and aircrew activities at altitudes greater than 24,000 feet so aircrew become aware of signs and symptoms of hypoxia. (U.S. Navy photos by MC2 Nick A. Grim)

Counselman said once the testing was complete and the procedures validated, the staff qualification process commenced and proceeded at a rapid pace, leading to the introduction of the device to refresher Naval Aviation Survival Training Program classes in July.

With the ASTC JAX NHT now fully functional, the staff will work with the remaining seven ASTCs. Located in Norfolk, Virginia; Cherry Point, North Carolina; Whidbey Island, Washington; Miramar, California; Pensacola, Florida; Lemoore, California; and Patuxent River, Maryland, the ASCTCs are scheduled to become fully operation by summer 2020.

Written by MC2 Nick A. Grim with Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs.

Hypoxia Trainer: Breath of Fresh Air at Tailhook

Navy Lt. Chris Gilg explains the operation of the On-Demand Hypoxia Trainer (ODHT) to Air Force Capt. Mike Grimmer at the Tailhook Association Convention in Reno, Nev. The ODHT is designed to provide a mask-on breathing experience that is similar to what military aircrew use in flight. (U.S. Navy)

Physiology experts were on hand at the annual Tailhook Association Convention Sept. 5-7 providing a demonstration of the newest hypoxia-awareness device for Naval Aviation—the On-Demand Hypoxia Trainer (ODHT).

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply and can adversely affect aircrew if they are not properly trained to recognize the symptoms of air hunger.

All naval aviators and aircrew must complete refresher physiology training at least every two years and must familiarize themselves with potential hazards in flight including decreased levels of oxygen.

“The ODHT is great because it reduces oxygen levels and gives the user the feeling of difficulty breathing,” said James Netherland, an electrical engineer for the new system that helps train aircrew.

Lt. Chris Gilg, a naval aerospace physiologist at the Aircrew Survival Training Center at Naval Air Station Pensacola, said the ODHT changes the game when it comes to recognizing hypoxia hazards while in flight.

“We expect aircraft to perform in a certain way,” said Gilg. “When it doesn’t, however, there is a chance that hypoxia can set in; we can train aircrew to be able to recognize the symptoms in themselves and others.”

At Tailhook, attendees volunteered to breathe through a mask that delivers reduced oxygen concentrations like those they would expect to experience at altitude, and then provided feedback that designers will consider in the continued development of the ODHT.

“Bringing the system to Tailhook, we get to network with the aviators and to allow them to test this new device,” said Gilg. “It’s important for them to see there is work being done to make the training more realistic, with the on-demand system here.

“We’ve also been training students with it and based on the reliability it’s shown thus far, and the feedback that we’ve gotten, this system is what it actually feels like to breathe in the aircraft,” he said.

During Tailhook, the team ran hypoxic profiles with 17 aviators to gain feedback on the system. In general, the aviators reported that the ODHT provided a breathing experience that was similar or slightly smoother than the inhalation and exhalation feel in their aircraft.

In some instances, the aviators specifically noted that they could not detect a noticeable difference between the breathing experience on the device and on the jet.

Several aviators reported that the ODHT provided a better experience than the current training device, the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device.

The ODHT is in the testing phase and the Navy is hoping to see it fully implemented in 2021.

Written by Naval Aviation Enterprise Public Affairs.

NAVAIR Delivers MH-60S Gunner Seat Replacement to the Fleet

The Aircrew Systems Program Office delivered the redesigned MH-60S Seahawk gunner seats to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 on Sept. 24-25.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mikel Lauren Proulx)

The Aircrew Systems Program Office delivered, installed and demonstrated the first two redesigned production MH-60S Seahawk gunner seats to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 at Naval Air Station North Island on Sept. 24 and 25.

The gunner seat redesign focused on safety and ergonomics to improve operator endurance.

In response to reports of chronic injuries to aircrew flying missions in the MH-60S while sitting in the gunner’s seat, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, then Director, Air Warfare, directed the program office to update the seat to allow crewmembers to perform their missions with increased comfort and flexibility.

Capt. Ryan T. Carron, commodore, HSCWP, and AWSCM Darren Hauptman, aircrew community lead, inspect the gunner seat. (U.S. Navy photo by Mikel Lauren Proulx)

Testing on the prototypes was completed earlier this summer and the seat was manufactured and delivered Sept. 24 to HSC-3. Fleet installations are underway.

Naval Aircrewman Helicopter (AWS) 1 Amber Barlow, with HSC-23, reacted positively to the new seat.

“What I liked about what I saw today is you have the ability to lean forward, and forward and down actually, which gives someone like me, who has a very short reach, the ability to get closer to the weapon and still be able to shoot it from a seated position,” Barlow said.

She also noticed there was adjustability with the new gunner seat, including having a better range of motion when using the weaponry while remaining securely and comfortably strapped into the aircraft thanks to the redesigned restraint system.

The ability to adjust the seat’s height was a welcomed feature for AWS1 Patrick Boedeker, who is a tall gunner.

“Just being able to move my legs and be more mobile in the cabin helps. Usually, I can’t sit in a normal sitting position, because then my knees are so close to the window,” Boedeker said. “It’s more than I expected. It’s surprising and I like it.”

Hospital corpsman with the wing were pleased with the speed of delivery.

“I think that the engineers have done a fantastic job creating and implementing this new seat. This project has moved at break-neck speed. This is one of the fastest projects I have seen in the 16 years I have been in the Navy,” said HM1 Mark Skaggs, aeromedical safety corpsman with Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific (HSCWP).

The program office used an innovative approach and formed a Gunner Seat Task Force (GSTF) to allow the fleet to provide real-time input during each step of the prototype’s development, said Fillip Behrman, integrated product team lead.

Naval Aircrewman Helicopter (AWS) Master Chief Darren Hauptman, aircrew community lead, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific (HSCWP), buckles himself into the redesigned gunner seat.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mikel Lauren Proulx)

Throughout the design phase, the team used the GSTF as a resource to vet ideas, support fit checks and provide a conduit into the aircrew community.

“The gunner seat redesign is a great example of how taking measured risks for an urgent fleet need and incorporating direct fleet input allowed us to deliver capability with far greater speed. The result will be increased aircrew endurance and mission performance,” said Vice Adm. Dean Peters, commander, Naval Air Systems Command.

Redesign Focuses on Safety, Endurance

Improvements to the gunner seat focused on three areas, said Capt. Tom Heck, Air Crew Systems program manager.

“First of all, we want our aircrew to be safe. We deliver safe things that work the first time, every time. And second, we need them to be able to do their mission as effectively as they can because that’s why they’re out there—to accomplish the mission. Third, when they’re done with their mission and with their career, we want them to go on with the rest of life without having to suffer any kind of chronic injury.”

Since funding was received in May 2017, it has been a team effort to redesign a new gunner seat in-house to improve ergonomics and endurance to ensure mission success, said Fillip Behrman, Gunner Seat Integrated Production Team Lead with the Aircrew Systems Program Office.

For example, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s (NAWCAD) AIRWorks office provided rapid prototyping to bring the redesign to life in six months.

“The success of the gunner seat redesign comes down to the power of relationships, using the direct input and collaboration with the fleet, coupled with a tailored approach using AIRWorks and organic prototyping allowed the team to go fast and deliver this capability with speed,” said Gary Kurtz, Program Executive Officer, Aviation Common Systems and Commercial Services.

In May 2018, the program office debuted its second prototype at the Naval Helicopter Association Symposium in Norfolk, Virginia. That same week, flight and ground testing began at HSC-2.

AWSAN Ryan Horn, left, HSC-3 aircrew student, tests the improved restraint system designed to increase gunner mobility. AWS1 Aaron Hill, center, with HSC-3, notices the increased protection and ergonomic support of the redesigned gunner seat and AWS1 Amber Barlow, right, with HSC-23, adjusts the seat position of the redesigned gunner seat to accommodate her size.
(U.S. Navy photos by Mikel Lauren Proulx)

The design team relied on fleet feedback throughout the redesign process, culminating in production representative test article seats.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (HX) 21, VX-1 and the NAWCAD Crashworthy and Escape Systems Branch conducted flight, ground and lab testing at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, all of which were completed this summer.

Based on fleet feedback, the current redesigned gunner seat includes the following features:

  • Height adjustment, allowing for improved ergonomics and visibility
  • Fabric seat back with embedded lumbar cushion for comfort on longer missions
  • Seat pan designed to reduce pressure points on buttocks/legs while seated; seat pan folds up for greater mobility
  • Seat position adjustable toward center of helicopter (center seat eliminated) to increase seated position leg room
  • Increased webbing length to harness/restraint to improve gunner mobility
  • Rear-facing seating option for port gunner seat
  • Weight adjustable energy absorbers for greater crashworthiness

Endurance was not the only concern during the redesign—safety remains a top priority. The redesign had to meet rigorous standards necessary to protect aircrew should a crash occur.

The upgraded gunner seat was designed to improve ergonomics and operator endurance.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mikel Lauren Proulx)

Lindley Bark, branch head of the Crashworthy and Escape Systems explained that the crash testing is extensive to ensure as many scenarios as possible are addressed.

“We don’t know which direction we’re going to crash. But we have years of mishap data, and it’s taught us where our highest probable crash scenarios are, what severities are, what the angle and orientations are,” Bark said.

Production is fully underway, with a total of 12 Gunner Seat Mission Equipment Sets (GSMES), which include two seats plus a floor and ceiling mount, delivered to HSC-3, Behrman said.

Approximately 50 GSMES’s will be delivered per month until the entire H-60S fleet has been outfitted with the new seats. 

Written by Rob Perry, a staff writer with Naval Aviation News and Andrea Watters, the editor. Also contributing to the article were Mikel Lauren Proulx, lead for NAVAIR’s Visual Information team, and Amie Blade, Common Systems and Commercial Services public affairs officer. 

HSC-22 DET 3 Sails with Fire Scout, USS Milwaukee

An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle, assigned to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, conducts flight operations during an underway with the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5). (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Anderson W. Branch )

In June, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 became the first East Coast squadron to sail with both type/model/series on the Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS) platform during USS Milwaukee’s (LCS 5) first underway with MH-60S Seahawk and MQ-8B Fire Scout aircraft.

Before getting underway, Detachment (DET) 3 traveled to Point Mugu Naval Air Station in California to test the Fire Scout’s capabilities over water and land. This was the first time the DET operated the on-board ZPY-4 radar successfully in conjunction with the BriteStar II Modular Mission Payload to find and identify surface contacts. The DET also conducted its first night operation of the Fire Scout and employed the air vehicle’s voice relay ability to communicate over the horizon with both ground forces and the MH-60S.

“The experience gained by maintenance personnel and aircrew was essential in determining how both aircraft would be best utilized in the shipboard maritime environment,” said Lt. Cmdr. A.J. Castro, DET 3 officer in charge.

“Once we were on board ship, we had the opportunity to practice procedures and communications in a unique maritime environment that proved to be more challenging than at a shore-based facility,” said Lt. Cassandra Gettinger, DET 3 H-60S/MQ-8B pilot.

Fire Scout crews used its surface radar sytems to track and classify contacts while coordinating actions with the ship’s combat center. The DET could see and identify surface ships from hundreds of miles along the coast without detection, demonstrating the Fire Scout’s integral future as the Navy’s newest and most lethal resource for operational reconnaissance and intelligence collecting missions.

“It means a lot to be able to provide the ship with an improved maritime picture using our radar systems. The capabilities we can bring to the table make us an invaluable resource,” said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd class Justin McCrary, DET 3 H-60S aircrew member and mission payload operator (MPO).

While underway, members of the Coast Guard’s Airborne Use of Force (AUF) Tactical Law Enforcement and their ship boarding teams executed a full mission profile, using both the MH-60S and Fire Scout to find and identify their target, ultimately disabling and taking command of the suspect vessel. Their forces combined, the ship qualified in the multi-service AUF mission they will be primarily focused on during their upcoming deployment in 4th Fleet.

Embedded in the mission and operational training period, ship’s personnel and DET 3 learned how to collaborate.

“It was always easy to find the people and resources I needed because of the smaller crew and the quality of Sailors on board,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st class Nicholas Liddle, DET 3 H-60S/MQ-8B maintenance technician.

Because of limited manning on the LCS, teamwork proved to be of utmost importance, with DET 3 enlisted maintainers helping with flight deck readiness, and LCS sailors switching from galley duty to manning flight quarters in an instant.

“At times, being the first has been an uphill battle. We had to learn how to effectively operate and maintain two different platforms at the same time. It hasn’t been easy, but we are a stronger DET because of our experience. I am excited to see what the MQ-8B and MH-60S team will be able to accomplish when paired in the maritime environment,” Castro said.

In the two years since HSC-22’s safe-to-operate date for the Fire Scout, the squadron went from unqualified to deployment ready, explained Cmdr. Matt Persiani, HSC-22 Commanding Officer. “All of our maintainers, pilots and aircrew have worked incredibly hard to get us to this point, and it is due to their dedication that the DET 3 is ready to deploy with manned and unmanned aircraft,” he said. 

Next, to prepare for deployment this fall, HSC-22 DET 3 conducted a successful initial ship-aviation team training period and advanced phase with crew members from USS Milwaukee and USS Detroit (LCS-7) off the coast of Mayport, Florida. The squadron, with a crew of only 25 personnel, flew 40 hours in the MH-60S and 27 hours in the Fire Scout over a three-week period, practicing ship’s procedures and integrating for operational missions.

“For such a small crew to handle simultaneous manned and unmanned operations, teamwork was crucial, and we learned what works best. We relied on Detroit’s personnel to help facilitate flight quarters and ensure we were able to carry out all of our operational missions,” said Lt. Cmdr. A.J. Castro, DET 3 officer in charge.

DET 3 also conducted the first dual ship flight from a sea-based platform, where the air vehicle operators and MPOs communicated directly with the pilots and aircrew members for tactical employment of both aircraft.

“This accomplishment is redefining the HSC maritime presence worldwide and leading the way for developing tactics, techniques and procedures for manned/unmanned teaming,” Castro said. Written by Lt. Rebecca Atkinson, DET public affairs officer for HSC-22.

HSC-3 Revamps Training with New Videos

A replacement pilot with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 reviews NATOPs while watching a “prototype” video that further reinforces the lesson and material. 
(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Patrick W. Menah Jr.)

The Training Department at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, the West Coast’s fleet replacement squadron (FRS), recently redesigned its ground-training syllabus using videos to modernize the materials and increase speed.

We applaud this innovation, and we strive to grow further as technology advances,” said Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Dan Dwyer. “Modernizing the flight training curriculum from initial entry through undergraduate training, FRS and into the fleet, will allow students greater opportunity to excel faster.”

Starting with a fleet replacement pilot’s first day at the FRS and continuing throughout the “Seawolf” training program, videos now introduce each system and guide students through basic operation and key study points, explained Lt. Cmdr. Robin Dirickson, HSC-3’s training lead. Engaging, instructional videos can direct a student through challenging material the same way, for example, a video can guide a do-it-yourselfer through a home repair, she said.

The videos feature active-duty instructors introducing a system and demonstrating the standard for briefing. They use linear diagrams and animated graphics side-by-side with aircraft photos to break down complex topics and include handwritten notes to highlight important information. Students then reference a study guide with required reading from source documents with a personnel qualification standard style outline of learning objectives. Open and closed book tests for each lesson further direct students to study and evaluate the information that is most critical to commit to memory.

This “flipped classroom” strategy helps better accommodate individual study time, because in-person instructional time is now spent answering questions, having discussions, testing comprehension and practicing problem solving.

Lt. j.g. Richard Wheeler, an FRS student pilot, praised the new courseware. “The videos help break the system down to general concepts of why and how it works, then build it back up for how it works in the helicopter. It helps cue students toward what matters for the system in plain English,” he said.

“The redesigned training also aligns with the Navy’s Ready, Relevant Learning initiative,” said Capt. Ed Weiler, HSC-3 Commanding Officer, “because it makes learning accessible at the right time, at the right level and in the right format, and it aligns with the recommendations released in a report this year from a Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division review of current FRS instructional methods.”

Beyond systems basics, explanatory and walk-though videos will also be available for topics that either require repetition for comprehension or combined audio-visual instruction, Dirickson said.

At the Production Alignment Conference in August, HSC-3 proposed extending the training videos to cover mine countermeasures, unmanned aerial systems and aircraft maintenance operations. To do that, a cloud-based server and site dedicated to aircrew training will need to be established so students can access the content on their phones, tablets or home computers in addition to computers in the learning center. HSC-3 has completed multiple “prototype” videos and plans to bring this initiative to the HSC community starting in January 2020.

For more information, email

A Career in Flight Testing

Naval Test Wing Atlantic Ensures Fleet Success

Col. Rich “Chachi” Marigliano, Commodore, Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL).
(U.S. Navy photo by Peter Fitzpatrick)

The following is an expanded version of a recent Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) podcast with Col. Rich “Chachi” Marigliano, Commodore, Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL). In this question-and-answer feature, Marigliano explains the importance of the Wing and advantages the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) gives the fleet.

What is the mission and squadron make-up of NTWL?
Why is it so diverse?

In Navy/Marine Corps developmental test and evaluation, there are two test wings. One on the West Coast, which focuses on weapons testing and one on the East Coast that focuses on aircraft testing and supporting the training of new test pilots at USNTPS. Our primary mission is to conduct research, development, test and evaluation of manned and unmanned fixed and rotary wing aircraft to strengthen the fleet’s lethal warfighting capability. The five commands (Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, VX-20, HX-21, UX-24 and USNTPS) accomplish this with a diverse assignment of approximately 260 manned and unmanned aircraft that represent Naval Aviation.

Why is NTWL such a valuable asset?

All of the squadron commands here are testing the most modern technologies which will provide additional lethality to the fleet. Today, as we look at the environment we are living in, there is a lot of importance in increasing the lethality of our fleet. The threats are real, and our squadrons are responsible and accountable to test those new capabilities to ensure we provide reliable, proven effective technologies as quickly as possible to the warfighters.

What aspects of your career led to your current command?

During my first tour as a Marine First Lieutenant, then Captain, I didn’t know anything about acquisition, testing or test pilots. In my first fleet aircraft, I saw a system that was antiquated. I couldn’t figure out why my car had this great GPS that could get me places, but my aircraft that cost millions of dollars didn’t have it. When I learned about USNTPS, I realized there was an entire world out there that buys and develops this technology for our warfighters. Once I became aware of the role of acquisition in Naval Aviation, it became a passion of mine.

How does the career path of a Marine Corps test pilot compare to that of a Navy test pilot?

It’s very similar. The career path hinges on a successful first tour. My advice to anyone who wants to attend test pilot school is to do the best you can during your first tour. Show that you can be a good pilot. You don’t have to be the ace-of-the-base pilot to be a test pilot. You have to be competent and prove you are able to fly your aircraft and do it well. Also, seek leadership qualifications, become an expert in the tactical deployment of your aircraft and its weapons. You must establish that you are a high performer with credibility in your community.

What does the career path for a test pilot/naval flight officer (NFO) look like?

Those selected as pilots, NFOs or flight test engineers that complete USNTPS training will be responsible for shaping the future of Naval Aviation. Once they finish with USNTPS, they will go to one of the developmental test squadrons. They go to USNTPS with the most recent fleet experience and learn the disciplines of engineering and testing so they can communicate the needs of the fleet with the engineers. When they arrive at the test squadrons, they get into the aircraft to test capabilities that were paper designs and are now actual hardware. They are looking at it from an operator’s perspective by applying their fleet knowledge and asking, “Does this system work the way it’s intended to? How else can I use this system to be more lethal? What is the mission relation?” all while they are executing developmental engineering flight test.

Can attending USNTPS have a detrimental effect on the traditional career path of an aviator?

No, attending USNTPS is a unique path that provides tremendous insight into Naval Aviation that has served many senior leaders well in both the Navy and Marine Corps. We have many testers that return to the fleet and lead commands in deployed operations progressing to senior levels of leadership.

What separates a test pilot from other aviators?

We’re all aviators first. Test pilots receive special training and gain unique experiences during a test tour that provides skills beneficial to any organization, fleet or acquisition. At USNTPS, one critical skill they learn is how to translate fleet experience to engineering speak and vice versa. Many testers head back to the fleet where they can explain to the young lieutenants or captains who might see an antiquated system the reason why it’s there and what new technology is coming.

What would you say is the greatest thing about being a test pilot?

The greatest thing about being a test pilot is the reward you get after you have successfully completed a test and then see that capability fielded. You know you contributed to getting that capability to the fleet.

I’ve done a lot of great stuff including work on the first presidential replacement helicopter, the VH-71. I was one of the first fliers of that aircraft. But the test effort that I value the most was when a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) needed to expand a limited launch/recovery envelop for the CH-53D on a landing helicopter dock amphibious assault ship. The MEU could not execute 53D flight operations due to high wind conditions outside the approved limits. A small team of us developed a test plan, executed it within a planned 10-day test window, successfully expanded the envelope and released the new envelop message. Within 24 hours of the message being released, the MEU was using it. That was the most rewarding test effort of my career.

Why is it valuable to have the test pilot school located at the center of test and evaluation?

USNTPS is the gateway for testers in so many facets. The schoolhouse is more than just formulas, science and engineering. It is establishing the culture, the mindset, the critical thinking required to look at and analyze a problem. We have to think critically to identify the risks and ways to mitigate those risks.

That’s an important point because we’re always talking about the need to take more risk to speed the delivery of these products to the fleet. How do test pilots play into that equation? What do they bring to it? The test pilots and flight test engineers work hand-in-hand to get the most out of the limited program resources. Testers help the program manager figure out what capabilities they can deliver to the fleet.

Another huge advantage for our test squadrons is the collaboration with the operational testers and weapons schools. There is nothing more powerful then when these stakeholders gain alignment and jointly provide the decision makers with the information needed to make the right decision on taking calculated risks to get critical capability to the fleet.

What platforms or communities have the greatest need for pilots?

The community that needs the most attention is our NFOs. We are just not seeing as many applicants as we would like. For the pilot side, it’s fairly populated and it ebbs and flows. That said we value all applications to USNTPS from aviators that had a successful first tour and demonstrated they are able to fly the aircraft, have leadership capabilities and understand their mission and platform.

What is the importance of the relationship between the test pilot and the flight test engineer? What do they offer each other?

The exchange of information is so valuable between the test pilot and the flight test engineer. Our pilots have the recent fleet experience and our engineers have the flight test experience; together they learn from each other about the capability we are testing and methods in which we can safely plan and execute flight test.

I have never observed such a strong relationship between military and civilians then in flight test. I personally have worked with numerous engineers who taught me so much about flight test. Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed a synergy develop between the engineering smarts and the fleet knowledge, which I continue to encourage throughout the wing.

In your opinion, do test pilots make great astronauts?

Absolutely. Teaching fleet pilots to speak the language of engineering is a skillset that translates to many opportunities, whether it’s as an astronaut or in civilian industry. It’s the combination of the technical knowledge you learn at USNTPS—the critical thinking, the risk management plus the experience of working with civilians in a complex and challenging environment—that’s what NASA recognizes as the value in the testers that have come through here.

The CH-53K King Stallion lifts a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, January 18, 2018. The purpose of this exercise was to show the Capabilities of the CH-53K.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shannon Doherty)

Grampaw Pettibone

Gramps from Yesteryear

May-June 1999

Illustration by Ted Wilbur 

Divert Debacle

A student naval aviator awoke at 0325 for a 0500 course rules brief before a carrier qualification flight in a T-45 Goshawk aboard a carrier off the coast. The primary divert field assigned was the naval air station (NAS) from which the flight would depart. The secondary was a Navy field on the coast.

After a flight briefing at 0600, the aircraft departed for the carrier. Due to marginal weather, however, it had to return to the NAS, arriving at 1015. The student later attended an impromptu all officers meeting to discuss safety issues relating to a T-45 mishap that occurred in another squadron. After the meeting and lunch, the student briefed for a second launch to the boat, and at 1500 took off once again for the carrier.

The student received a “Charlie” signal on arrival at the carrier and let down into the pattern where he made two touch and goes. Subsequently, he made two hook-down passes, waving off both times. At this point he was at bingo fuel and was directed by the tower to divert to shore and proceed with an emergency bingo divert profile. A lead/safe instructor was assigned to join the student and escort him to a land base.

Because of bad weather and radio and tactical aid to navigation problems, the join-up was delayed. When they had rendezvoused, the instructor assumed the “communications lead” but not the actual flight lead as required by a Chief of Naval Air Training instruction. The instructor told the student to land at the Navy facility on the coast, even though the student had sufficient fuel to safely execute a divert to the NAS launch point with which he was more familiar.

The flight descended and broke out of the weather and into the clear at 2,600 feet, over water, with the runway visible 10 miles in the distance. The instructor reminded the student to drop his gear and flaps at 7 miles. The student had failed to perform his feet-dry checks prior to the approach, however, and didn’t complete his landing checklist on final. Although he verified that his gear and flaps were down and speed brakes extended, he had omitted the aircraft anti-skid from the checklist and the system was not actuated. Also, the student was surprised to note the field did not have a Fresnel lens for landing. He touched down nearly 2,000 feet from the approach end and hit the brakes while rolling out at 115 knots. Because anti-skid was deselected, the starboard main landing tire blew. The student was unable to counter the T-45’s swerve to the right. The Goshawk departed the runway and flipped over. The student struck the instrument panel but suffered only minor lacerations and abrasions from the impact and from the shattered canopy. A physical exam revealed the student was fatigued dehydrated and poorly nourished at the time of the accident.

Grampaw Pettibone says…

Light a blow torch and singe my whiskers one more time! What can ole Gramps say about checklists but USE THEM! Blowin’ a tire on a fast rollout is absolutely no fun. And it can be disastrous when you’re exhausted, hungry and badly need a drink of water. The lead/safe pilot wasn‘t a lot of help here. “Task saturated” is the term used nowadays to describe a situation where a flier has too much to do and not enough time to do It. Add the stress factor, lack of sleep, food and water and the recipe produces trouble with a capital “T.” 

The Flagship Publication of Naval Aviation