Artisans at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) avionics division multi-target surveillance shop strive for excellence by providing essential repairs to critical laser systems used on various military aircraft.
These systems include the Navy’s SH-60B helicopter AN/AAS-44V and MH-60R helicopter Multispectral Targeting System (MTS)-A AAS-44C turrets, Air Force MQ1 Predator aircraft MTS-A turret and the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle MTS-B turrets.
The state-of-the-art multiple weapons systems provide pilots with long-range surveillance, high-altitude target acquisition, tracking, range-finding, and specific designation for laser-guided munitions.
“This capability began with a partnership with the Raytheon Company in 2003 to repair the 44V turrets,” said FRCSE Multi-Target Surveillance Shop Supervisor Jim Ranieri. “In January 2009, we began repair of the AAS-44C turrets for the U.S. Navy. In January 2011, FRCSE established capability with the U.S. Air Force to stand up depot-level repair capability for the MTS-A. Then in October 2013, we established capability for the MTS-B turrets.”
To handle this new MTS workload, FRCSE converted a 16,500-square-foot workspace from an existing avionics workspace into a specialized avionics testing and repair area. This includes a multi-use Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) testing center, electro-optical, and laser detecting range tracking rooms. The facility is equipped with eight laser test firing rooms and 20 test benches to give technicians more space to work on turrets.
“This state-of-the-art equipment allows us to expand our services and better serve our customers,” Ranieri explained. “This is the biggest growing product line for the FRCSE avionics division. This is the work of the future. We’ve gone from working on the smaller 44V turrets in the early stages to working on the newest technologies of Multispectral Targeting Systems.”
FRCSE artisans perform all aspects of maintenance on these sophisticated systems. “This is pretty in-depth work,” said Ranieri. “We have 28 electronic mechanics working here on two shifts, six days a week, 24 hours a day. They break down and disassemble turrets, test and repair parts, test laser firing of the turrets, and ensure the lenses and fields of view are working correctly.”
Raytheon Company field service engineers are onsite for consultation as needed. “We have six field service representatives who work side by side our technicians,” added Ranieri. “It’s a team effort. As the manufacturer of these turrets, they are available to help resolve issues. We maintain a good working relationship.”
The repair process begins when a turret arrives at the FRCSE avionics division and a work order is created to repair the equipment. Each turret is issued a work order, unpacked by Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) personnel and mounted on a special cart. The turrets are transferred to the multi-target surveillance shop where they are added to a repair schedule board.
“The first thing our technicians do is review the customer complaint,” said Ranieri. “They’ll try to duplicate the equipment issue and determine what type of repair the turret needs and what parts need to be ordered. If we can’t duplicate the issue, the turret is placed into a boresite enhancement chamber to test it at various temperatures simulating an aircraft flying at different altitudes. Our technicians run the chamber from minus 65 degrees Celsius to 150 degrees Fahrenheit while continually monitoring data. This is normally a 12 to 18-hour process.”
Once the artisans have identified the problem and repaired the turret, it is sent to the laser firing room for testing to ensure all systems are aligned correctly. “All of our operators are laser-certified and enrolled in the FRCSE Laser Safety program,” Ranieri said. “We monitor testing procedures in each room with cameras to ensure our technicians are safe during operations. And all doors have warning lights to prevent people walking in during testing. If someone does accidently open the door, monitors shutdown the laser testing immediately for safety reasons.”
Each turret undergoes a final quality assurance check after repair before being signed off. DLA employees then pick up the turret, repack it and send it back to the customer. The average turnaround time for the 44V turret is 150 to 160 man hours. The average Air Force turret turnaround time is approximately 170 depending on the issue and testing requirements.
"This shop has a highly skilled and diversified workforce,” said Ranieri. “Our technicians are extremely motivated and dedicated to seeing that every turret, from cradle to grave, is handled with precision and care in support of our warfighters. Many of them have prior military backgrounds and have worked on other product lines here before transitioning into the MTS arena.”
For more information, contact FRCSE Public Affairs at (904) 790-4749.