REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala -- Soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard and the Connecticut Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group participated in a composites training course at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center this month.The course is offered through the Prototype Integration Facility at AMRDEC and paid for by the Utility Helicopter Project Office.

Teams at the PIF created and validated procedures in advanced composites to facilitate repair of a Black Hawk stabilator, the large, movable pieces at the back of the aircraft. Many malfunctions happen away from a shop. With that in mind, the PIF composites lab, in conjunction with the Black Hawk Utility Program Management Office, established a course to train Soldiers and get these solutions to the field.

"(This) is critical to the airworthiness of the Army's aviation force. These maintenance and repair skills are perishable over time if the Soldiers do not get the opportunity to execute repairs on a regular basis," said Earl Thomas, composites course instructor. "The courses offered here at AMRDEC provide an in-depth overview of composites and how they function, followed by several hands on practical exercises giving Soldiers the opportunity to perform repairs that hone and maintain their skills."

The composites team worked with the 128th Aviation Brigade from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., to add a composites program of instruction to the schoolhouse's advanced individual training course. While Soldiers can take the course through the schoolhouse, the PIF also offers many opportunities to take the course around the world. Historically, courses have been taught about once a month in various locations including Germany, Fort Drum, Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, and Kuwait.

Though originally created to suit the Black Hawk helicopter, the courses have been tailored to accommodate multiple aviation platforms, including Apache and Chinook helicopters and the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. There are four courses offered through the PIF: Advanced Composites Maintenance and Repair, 40 hours; Technical Inspection of Advanced Composite Repairs, 24 hours; Fundamentals of Composites, 40 hours; and Composite Blade Repair, 40 hours.

Composites boast many benefits: they don't corrode and are therefore a longer lasting material; they are highly repairable, light weight and high performance. Because composites are more sustainable, they offer a lower life-cycle cost, a benefit the Army.

"Composites have unique challenges," said Kimberly Cockrell, AMRDEC composites lead. "We are focused on educating everyone, including maintainers, logisticians, engineers and acquisition professionals, on how composites behave and how they require new approaches to design and sustainment, so we can better support our customers by knowing what questions to ask and how to plan appropriately as these aviation structures are become more and more composite and replace traditional metal structures."

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U.S. Army Aviation & Aviation Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.