Core capabilities secure CROWS workload
Keith Tucker, an electronics mechanic at Tobyhanna Army Depot, performs an alignment and operational test of the CROWS. Tucker works in the depot's Bradley Fighting Vehicle Branch.

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- Tobyhanna Army Depot will leverage its extensive resources to become the Army's new depot source of repair for the Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station, known as CROWS.

Depot employees and Program Executive Office Soldier's Project Manager for Soldier Weapons personnel have joined forces to develop depot-level capability to repair more than 11,000 mounted turret systems at the Defense Department's (DoD) full-service electronics maintenance facility.

CROWS was initially tested by the Army and fielded to units supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The primary advantage for a vehicle-mounted CROWS is that it allows the operator to remotely aim and fire a weapon from inside a vehicle.

The transition plan includes everything from funding, facilities and training to manpower.

"The Army is going to rely on Tobyhanna to handle all things CROWS," said Mike Verrastro, chief of the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate's Bradley Fighting Vehicle Branch. "Our most important function right now is to get the capability necessary to meet the customer's needs -- to develop the test equipment and processes, procedures, skill sets, work space, and material handling equipment."

This initiative will also include repairs to other government agency assets, according to Mark Costello, Business Management Directorate's ISR commodity manager. The item manager for CROWS is TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, headquartered in Warren, Mich.

An evaluation team consisting of mechanical, material and electrical engineers, and logisticians with strong electronics and technical backgrounds, was tasked to select the optimum depot for overhaul and repair of CROWS systems and repairable components, according to Archie Johnson, CROWS Product Support Manager, Remote Weapon Station Division, Product Manager Crew Served Weapons, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. Their findings concluded that Tobyhanna's core capabilities and technical strengths, as they pertained to the CROWS, are a cut above the other facilities being considered for the depot source of repair designation, he added.

"My team was challenged with the monumental task to establish an organic sustainment capability by fiscal year 2016," Johnson said, adding that discussions regarding the transition to Organic Depot Maintenance started about two years ago. "Tobyhanna has distinguished themselves as true professionals, I look forward to many cooperative years while we partner for the entire CROWS life cycle in support of the warfighter."

This project will introduce two new levels of work -- line replaceable unit (LRU) repair and system-level overhaul, according to Electronics Engineer Joe Valvonis. He noted that personnel here are already heavily invested in supporting the CROWS mission by providing Operation New Equipment Training/Train the Trainer, and retrograde and field work.

Valvonis works in the Production Engineering Directorate's Counter Fire/Electro-Optic Systems Engineering Branch.

The Army has fielded thousands of CROWS systems in support of Soldiers across the theater of operations on dozens of vehicle platforms. A large number of military vehicles and vehicle variants that are now employing CROWS include mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) military vehicles, humvees, route clearance vehicles, the new MRAP all-terrain vehicles or military all-terrain vehicles, and others.

The program reached a major milestone in February 2012 when the Army classified the CROWS program with Acquisition Category 1 Program status, recognizing the CROWS among the elite levels of DoD's major defense acquisition programs.

The depot has been involved in the program since 2006 when field service representatives were sent to Iraq to repair CROWS I, according to Johnson. Since then, employees here have performed work on the LRUs under a public-private partnership agreement with the interim contractor, installed IFTE equipment, trained technicians to support the system and manufactured related cable harnesses, he said.

"Tobyhanna's management is focused and the organization has more modernized processes," Johnson said. "The work force is highly educated, demonstrating exceptional skill with electronic and electro-optical systems."

By 2016, the CROWS arriving at Tobyhanna will be tested, then broken down to the component level and distributed to various shops for repair. Upon completion, the system is reassembled, tested and stored by DLA Distribution Tobyhanna until the customer requests it, Verrastro said.

Right now, personnel here are working with an organization at Picatinny that is developing Integrated Family of Test Equipment (IFTE) tests for all of the LRUs. Personnel at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center are developing a set of test fixtures and test programs. IFTEs are normally maintained and overhauled at Tobyhanna.

"Someone here will develop a step-by-step process on how to get the IFTE to interface with the CROWS," Verrastro said. "In addition to writing detailed procedures on what to do if the IFTE finds a problem, we're also drafting bench procedures to disassemble or replace parts prior to testing."

At this time, the CROWS program has the potential to employ more than 100 people, Costello added.
TACOM and Tobyhanna personnel have developed a strong working relationship and everyone agrees that it will take teamwork to pull off this challenge by 2016.

"It will take focus, cooperation and a willingness to succeed to meet the deadline," said Verrastro. "If the early stages of the process are any indication of what the future holds, we've got nothing to worry about."

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.

About 3,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.

Page last updated Mon September 30th, 2013 at 00:00