Engineers quickly return Kiowa to flight in Afghanistan
May 31, 2013
- "The sooner the aircraft is repaired and back up and running, [the sooner the unit is back to] supporting the Warfighter. That is our primary goal."
- "It was an honor for me to do the part. I came over here to do work like this for the Soldiers."
- "The model we have at RFAST-C has the engineers and manufacturing expertise together with the end-users."
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- When Soldiers needed to replicate a key part of an OH-58D Kiowa helicopter to return it to duty, they turned to the expertise of a deployed U.S. Army civilian engineering team.
After the helicopter's fuselage bracket supporting the copilot's seat sustained damage from incoming fire, the 1106th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group Task Force 14 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, sought a quick turn-around solution.
Sgt. 1st Class Adam Creamer, 1106th TASMG TF14 production control noncommissioned officer-in-charge, said procuring the part from the states would have taken weeks, and the Army needed the helicopter flying again within days.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Nick Merrill and Brian Seifert took on the project. They are deployed to Bagram Airfield as part of the RDECOM Field Assistance in Science and Technology-Center.
"It's always of great importance because the Kiowa helicopter plays such a vital role," said Seifert, an engineering technician with RDECOM's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. "Time is of the essence. We have to get them up and running as quickly as possible."
Creamer said his unit had previously worked with the RFAST-C, and the team's speed at producing engineering solutions in theater was critical for this project.
"It was beyond our machine shop's capability," Creamer said. "We contacted Brian and got him the technical data that he required and the stock to manufacture that part.
"The sooner the aircraft is repaired and back up and running, [the sooner the unit is back to] supporting the Warfighter. That is our primary goal."
Merrill, a mechanical engineer with RDECOM's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, reverse engineered the part with specifications from a partial technical data package. He used the computer-aided design software SolidWorks to produce a model, and Seifert then milled the part to original specifications within RFAST-C's prototype integration facility.
The RFAST-C completed its work in three days. The 1106th TASMG TF14 reinstalled the part on the helicopter to complete the repair and allow the aircraft to return to combat operations.
RFAST-C Director Mark Schlein, also with RDECOM's ECBC, said bringing the engineering expertise directly to the Soldier at the point of need allows for rapid solutions.
"RFAST-C has the ability to do this with its engineering and shop toolsets. Those do not exist elsewhere in Bagram," Schlein said. "Based on this part's size and complexity, it was not something that could have been done at the other shops.
"The model we have at RFAST-C has the engineers and manufacturing expertise together with the end-users. The skills, talents and materials are all here. That's why this program is successful."
Seifert coordinated with the 1106th TASMG TF14 and worked to overcome obstacles with programming in the Mastercam computer-aided manufacturing software to quickly complete the task.
"It was a pleasure working with the guys. It was an honor for me to do the part. I came over here to do work like this for the Soldiers," Seifert said.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.