By Clifford Davis
Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Public Affairs

The Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) manufacturing team recently completed parts that will outfit the entire AV-8B Harrier fleet of the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the navies of Spain and Italy.

The Navy's Harrier program office, PMA 257, ordered the brackets and cables to allow the installation of the Harrier's new single-stage digital video recorder.

"We knew some of these parts had a complicated manufacturing process, but FRCSE found a way to squeeze us in," said Pablo Sanchez, PMA 257 deputy assistant program manager for logistics. "They managed to meet, and actually exceed, the production schedule. 

"They delivered all the parts, and we already have some of those installed. There are forward-deployed aircraft right now using these new digital recorders."

The new DVRs will replace an aging 8 mm system that still used tape cassettes, according to Amanda Blank, PMA 257 mission systems team lead.

"The 8 mm tapes were becoming harder and harder to come by," she said. "Also, you couldn't play them back on a computer, they had a separate playback system that's been difficult to repair.

"These new DVRs will record all the flight data from the aircraft that we can then use for training, pilot debriefs and intelligence gathering."

The contribution of the FRCSE team to get the Harriers outfitted with the new technology was an intensive one. 

The parts kit the facility manufactured were made up of two cables, two aluminum brackets and two stainless steel brackets. Artisans manufactured 150 kits, totaling 900 individual parts.

"The cables and the aluminum brackets were done fairly easily," said Ann Marie Dube, FRCSE program manager for industrial manufacturing and processes. "The stainless steel brackets were a different story."

Each stainless steel bracket took more than three hours to perform the initial cut on the facility's water jet machine, which uses a combination of water and abrasives to cut metals, Dube said. After the initial cuts to the steel on the water jet, each bracket took eight hours on a five-axis, computer numerical control machine - not to mention the creation of a program that tells the machine how to make the cuts and milling.

"We had to monopolize one of our five-axis machines from April until December," Dube said. I put a little bit of a buffer in there in case the machine went down or we had a high priority part needed. 

"The five-axis machines are our most-used machines for F-18 parts - and F-18s are priority."

To move the parts through faster, Dube brought on a second shift to work the parts 16 hours per day. After each of the 300 stainless steel brackets were machined, they moved on to be degreased and painted. Finally, Dube could create the shipping documents and track the parts' delivery.

"This was a big job that took a lot of planning and effort from our entire team," Dube said. "This was the entire fleet of AV-8Bs of the U.S. Marine Corps, Spanish and Italian navies but we completed the job ahead of schedule."