News | Dec. 21, 2022

NAMCE Lemoore Responsible for Returning Nearly Five Squadrons’ Worth of Aircraft to Fleet Since 2018

By Naval Aviation Enterprise Communications Team

The 400 officers, Sailors and civilian contractors assigned to Naval Aviation Maintenance Center for Excellence (NAMCE) Lemoore, California, have made a critical impact to the goal of 360 mission-capable (MC) F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Navy-wide since the command’s stand-up in 2018.

Over the past four years, NAMCE Lemoore has provided maintenance support to the Strike Fighter community. NAMCE Lemoore has contributed to the successful return of 35 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets to the Lemoore flight line.

Of the original 60 aircraft sent to NAMCE Lemoore in 2018 as part of the effort to reach the original goal of 341 strike-fighter jets (now 360), the final four remaining Block II Super Hornets were being returned to squadrons beginning in August and will be completed by December. Two of these aircraft were down for 10 and 16 years, requiring full rebuilds and modifications.

“After reaching our MC goal, we realized that this concept contributed to strategic depth in terms of maintenance,” said Cmdr. Joseph Stierwalt, Officer in Charge, NAMCE, Lemoore.

Stierwalt said that the vision for the command has broadened to include a comprehensive mission aimed at incorporating agile processes to continue improving the health of the Lemoore flight line.

“We broadened that aperture and began working with F/A-18 & EA-18G      Program Office in 2021 to start performing a maintenance reset,” Stierwalt said. “We follow a 35-calendar day deep dive into an aircraft to identify and repair all corrosion and other discrepancies that are found in the F/A-18 fleet. When the aircraft leave NAMCE Lemoore, they are essentially a brand-new Super Hornet, and it leaves here with a new Hornet smell.”

Lt. An Hua, NAMCE Lemoore Maintenance Officer, emphasized the command’s approach to creating an effective and repeatable process for Sailors to learn and apply in their squadrons.   
“If they are doing the maintenance right the first time, it will save them considerable time moving forward,” he said.

NAMCE Lemoore provides two corrosion-specific courses and has provided training to over 70 maintenance technicians. The two courses include Form in Place (FIP) seal application training and a hands-on corrosion training course using aircraft brought in for maintenance reset. Corrosion training is crucial to extending the life of the aircraft. Any time a panel is removed for maintenance and improperly installed back on the aircraft after maintenance completion, it enables environmental hazards to penetrate the exposed crevices of the panel and corrode the jet from the inside. Identifying, treating and preventing corrosion is paramount.

One of the time-saving initiatives taught to Sailors will ultimately save clean-up time after they finish with corrosion restoration efforts.

“When maintenance technicians remove an aircraft panel for FIP repair, they are trained to place tape underneath the sill to act as a drip pan and catch any FIP residue,” said Hua, who added that this procedure will save hours of collecting debris from inside the aircraft, allowing more time to be spent on other maintenance priorities. “The Sailors who saw this specific training never thought of placing tape under the panel sill, and many have used scribes, cheese cloth and magnets to remove the smallest level of debris.”    
In total, NAMCE Lemoore contributed more than 200,000 man-hours fixing, repairing and returning these aircraft, which is an equivalent of three squadrons’ worth of aircraft, to the fleet since 2018. The nature of the repairs consisted of a multitude of discrepancies completed over the timespan of four years, resulting in the sustained support to MC aircraft.

“One of the things we found during that initial deep dive was a large number of F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets were long-term down, and unflyable for greater than 90 days due to parts issues, repair issues and in some cases, lack of manpower to complete the repairs,” Stierwalt said.

NAMCE Lemoore’s contributions to Naval Aviation readiness have exceeded expectations and requirements.     

“For the past two months we have been setting records in terms of numbers of MC jets that we have brought to the Naval Aviation Enterprise,” he said.