Group 3 unmanned aircraft systems maintenance challenges within the Naval Aviation Enterprise
Park, John D.
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The Naval Aviation Maintenance Program (NAMP) creates maintenance and manpower inefficiencies for current Group 3 unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) (55 to 1,320 lbs). The primary output of this study was the creation of maintenance policy that is specific to Naval Group 3 UAS. Current Department of the Navy (DON) UAS policy results in double the maintenance man-hours per sortie than other DOD Group 3 UAS users. Even with the added manpower and regulations, DON mishap rates are actually slightly higher than the rest of DOD. Group 3 UAS are significantly less expensive than manned aircraft because of their size and they lack the same engineering redundancy. Ultimately, they are expendable. Whereas other services and special operations units have implemented less restrictive UAS maintenance policies, the Naval Aviation Enterprise's conservative approach to UAS maintenance categorizes them under the same NAMP requirements as manned Naval aircraft, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Quantitative modelling and Qualitative comparisons show the inefficiencies of the NAMP and demonstrate the need for new policy. After analyzing all maintenance actions for the RQ-7B Shadow and the RQ-21 Blackjack, the new policy offers a 53% maintenance manpower savings. This study proves that Group 3 UAS mishaps are primarily attributable to their lack of system reliability, not maintenance practices. Once the new maintenance policy is adopted, the resultant manpower savings can be reinvested into reliability and engineering. The proposed policy will drastically reduce maintenance manpower, increase sortie generation, and balance operational flexibility with oversight and compliance.
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