By Sgt. 1st Class Richard. A. Sosa, Rotary Division Research, Development, Test and Evaluation NCO, Aviation Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test CommandFebruary 5, 2019
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- The ability of Army helicopter repairers to support maintenance in remote locations may improve enormously if the airmobile Expeditionary Crane proves effective in austere environments during operational testing.
Aircraft maintainers of Alaska's 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, ran five Self-Propelled Crane Maintenance and Positioning, Increment II (SCAMP II) systems through the paces in downed aircraft and harsh environment scenarios.
Capt. Dick Lofthouse of the Product Manager, Aviation Ground Support Equipment (PM AGSE) office said, "The SCAMP II Expeditionary Crane program embraces the Chief of Staff of the Army's initiative to speed up Army Acquisition by taking advantage of technology available in the commercial market."
"In Savanah with the Aviation Support Battalion, we had old hangars without overhead hoists," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Sweigart, 1-52 Avn. Regt. "If we had these SCAMPs we could have had them readily available in the hangar for maintenance, even with the option of electric operation."
The new crane looks to provide Downed Aircraft Recovery Teams (DART) with a crane capable of CH-47 Chinook Helicopter internal transport to a downed aircraft site, as well as the ability to maneuver across various austere terrains.
"The Expeditionary Crane capitalizes on a commercially available crane that already has a proven track record in the public sector as well as Army Aviation for performance and reliability," said Lofthouse.
According to 1-52 Avn. Regt.'s Staff Sgt. Ian Van Harper, the SCAMP II reduces repair times.
"I just performed a real-life downed aircraft recovery mission in austere confined space landing zone late last September," he said. "Had I had access to the expeditionary crane with its mobility, we would have done it in half the time -- three hours instead of six."
The Expeditionary Crane has the potential to increase a unit's ability to conduct split-based operations, because it is lighter and airmobile.
"If a unit was fielded with multiple systems it would greatly increase the capability during split operations to multiple locations," said Staff Sgt. Bradley Obenland, 1-52 Avn. Regt.
"During a previous rotation to Europe, my unit had been split between locations where there was little to no capability to remove large components from an aircraft without coordinating external support, where the Scamp II would have been ideal."
A test team from the Fort Hood-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC) applied post-mission surveys and after action reviews to collect data directly from the SCAMP II operators and maintenance crews to inform senior Army leaders on whether the mobile crane system is effective, suitable and reliable on the modern battlefield.
"The team was able to see and hear how the Soldiers interacted with the equipment while driving the SCAMP II across varied terrains and perform major maintenance procedures on the CH-47 and the UH-60," said Mr. Gary Vaughn, assistant test officer, with the OTC's Aviation Test Directorate (AVTD).
During the test, Soldiers employed the Expeditionary Crane under chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive and cold weather environments.
They also maneuvered the system across improved, unimproved, and cross-country terrains under day, night, and night-vision goggle conditions.
"Upon arrival to a simulated downed CH-47, maintenance crews removed and reinstalled an aft aircraft blade," said Sgt. 1st Class Leonel Rubio, operations NCO, with AVTD.
"These conditions enabled evaluators to determine the Expeditionary Cranes' overall effectiveness in enhancing the maintenance crews' ability to complete DART operations in austere environments," he added.
To conduct proper testing, OTC coordinated using Category B CH-47 and UH-60 trainer helicopters from the 128th Aviation Brigade, JBLE, Va., along with facility support from Felker Army Airfield, so maintenance teams could remove and reinstall a CH-47 aft pylon and remove and reinstall a UH-60 five pack.
Data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center (AEC) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. AEC will determine the SCAMP's effectiveness, suitability, and survivability as an expeditionary crane. AEC's evaluation will support a full-rate initial production decision later this year.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
Operational testing began Oct. 1, 1969, and as the Army's only independent operational tester, OTC is celebrating "50 Years of Operational Testing." The unit tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.
The Aviation Test Directorate at West Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.