Kiowa Maintenance Takes On 'Field Status' Mission
June 29, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- For Kiowa Warrior maintenance trainers, the old adage “one size fits all” is taking on a new meaning.
Thanks to the work of the Program Executive Office for Aviation’s Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office and the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center’s Software Engineering Directorate, the Army’s fleet of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior maintenance trainers is being streamlined and updated to reflect the latest modifications made to Kiowa helicopters flown in theater today.
That streamline involves combining the Army’s three types of Kiowa maintenance trainers into one armament, avionics and electrical trainer used in the Kiowa maintenance training course at Fort Eustis, Va. Combining training devices mirrors the Army’s move to combine all Kiowa maintenance skills into one military occupational specialty, and better reflects the skill and experience level that Kiowa repairers are expected to have when working maintenance issues in a wartime environment.
“I’m really excited that we’re finally delivering this capability,” Lt. Col. Kirk McCauley, product director for Armed Scout Helicopter Fielded Systems, said.
“It’s challenging for these Soldiers to learn all those tasks. They have been at a disadvantage with the older Kiowa trainers. Now they have a world-class training device.”
In fiscal year 2002, the Army combined the three types of Kiowa maintenance " armament, avionics and electrical " into one military occupational specialty. Prior to that, the three types of maintenance repair were separated, with Soldiers receiving specialized training in one of the three areas. The new military occupational specialty " OH-58D Armament/Electrical/Avionics Systems Repairer " requires that Soldiers be trained in all three maintenance areas.
But existing maintenance trainers were not modified to reflect this consolidation. In the new course, student Soldiers had to troubleshoot on each trainer to get their full level of training. In addition, they were working with outdated trainers, which had not been upgraded because of the intent of the Army to phase out Kiowa helicopters.
“There was not a lot of investment in the Kiowa Warrior because other helicopter programs were going to replace it,” project lead Phil Howard of the Software Engineering Directorate said. “The Kiowa trainers were not kept up to the helicopter’s current field status because they were only being sustained until a new helicopter came along. But then the Comanche was canceled and the ARH (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter) was canceled. So, now we need to bring these trainers up to current fielding status.”
The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Combined Armament/Avionics/Electrical Trainer not only combines all three maintenance missions, it also provides Soldiers with a trainer that reflects all 10 Kiowa modification work orders since the Army re-committed to the Kiowa helicopter program.
“We are bringing these trainers into the 21st century,” said Glen Morris, a contract project engineer with SAIC, which is part of the engineering team at the Software Engineering Directorate. “The software is networkable. It’s designed for future growth.”
The Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office first approached the Software Engineering Directorate concerning the new maintenance trainers.
To design and build the new OH-58D CAAET, employees of the Software Engineering Directorate used an existing OH-58D Avionics Electrical Trainer as the foundation on which to combine the entire existing fault-driven training features of the Avionics Electronics Trainer, the Composite Armaments Trainer and the Composite Electrical Trainer. It consists of an OH-58D airframe with all of its subsystems, mechanisms to insert specific faults, and mechanisms to simulate the existence of certain operational hardware operated through the use of the computer fault and emulation control.
“We now have all trainer features in one trainer,” Howard said. “We’ve made everything nonproprietary. We deliver everything " the software, the codes, the design, everything " and we are using a helicopter airframe and subsystems that are like the helicopters they are doing maintenance on in the field. It has the same look and feel as what they would work on with a real Kiowa engine.”
Work on the first CAAET began in January 2010, and took about 1,200 manhours over 10 months to complete. It is the first of seven CAAET upgrades that the Software Engineering Directorate will complete for the maintenance training program.
“The joint collaboration along with the actual work being performed in a government owned and operated facility has resulted in a significant savings. The first training device is being completed at 60 percent of the cost quoted by the OEM (original equipment manufacturer),” Howard said.
The cost of the upgrades is under $3 million for the first device and $2.1 million for each additional device.
“By using the Army’s Software Engineering Directorate, we are stretching our resources. There is an inherent capability at SED that we can draw on to create world-class training devices at a cost lower than we can achieve through the competitive bidding process,” McCauley said.
“There are all kinds of synergies here. The partnership with SED is a lot more effective for us. We are getting a lot more bang for our buck by using the capabilities of this Army organization.”
Cost savings are also realized due to the proximity of the Software Engineering Directorate to its on-post neighbor in the Armed Scout Project Office.
“Daily operations are so convenient for me because all I have to do is drive a mile or two down the road to see the project, and interact with the engineers and other employees working on the project,” Dan Donaldson of the Armed Scout Project Office said. “This situation gives us a better overarching look and comes with a lot of definite benefits.”
The first CAAET will be delivered to Fort Eustis in July. The trainer will undergo an acceptance test and then be put into training with student Soldiers. The Software Engineering Directorate will then begin work on the second CAAET and will continue until all seven trainers are transformed into CAEETs.
And, when the OH-58D Kiowa is modified to the OH-58F, the new training devices will also be easily upgraded.
That’s good news for Software Engineering Directorate employees working on the upgrades, especially for Andrick Jackson and Ryan Ramage, who both worked in the field as Kiowa maintenance repairers.
“I like working on this because I know the Soldiers will train on what they will actually see in the field,” Ramage said.
Jackson, who was an armament repairer as a Soldier, was trained on the armament trainer, which didn’t prepare him for what he was required to do in the field.
“There wasn’t a whole lot I was able to do once I got to my unit,” Jackson said. “What I did in school was totally different than what I saw in the field. With this new trainer, the Soldier will get a better aspect of what to expect when they get to their duty station.”