B-2 Spirit exceeds mission standard

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The B-2 achieved a milestone when it exceeded Air Combat Command's fully mission capable rate standard of 51 percent in June, a feat not achieved since September 2004.

Keeping the B-2 ready for war is an effort that requires the hard work and support of everyone who works on base, said Col. Bob Dulong, 509th Maintenance Group commander.

For a B-2 to be FMC, it must be capable of successfully completing its intended mission of striking an enemy without being detected by radar.

The criteria used to determine the FMC rate of an aircraft is known as the Minimum Essential Subsystem Listing. The MESL is a detailed list of every subsystem that must be operational in order to determine the FMC rate of the aircraft.

Due in part to the aircraft's unique abilities, ACC recently changed the MESL criteria for the B-2 to more accurately reflect its low-observable status.

Using several modeling techniques, members of the 509th Maintenance Squadron Signature Diagnostics Flight and the 509th Operational Support Squadron Survivability Flight developed the MESL to improve aircrew member's satisfaction with the outer coating of the B-2, Colonel Dulong said.

In addition to the policy change for deriving MESL criteria, the Airmen of the 509th MXS and Aircraft Maintenance Squadron also made improvements in their maintenance practices.

"The members of the 509th MXS and AMXS are dedicated to the Air Force mission," Senior Master Sgt. WilliamVance, 509th AMXS, said.

The maintainers of one of the most technologically advanced weapons system work anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per day, including a rotating 12-hour weekendduty schedule.

During the past 18 months, Whiteman has received four aircraft with a new outer coating known as alternate high frequency materials. A B-2 with the AHFM coating has surface panels that can be removed and reinstalled with a minimal amount of the LO coating needing restoration.

A B-2 in need of any LO maintenance without this new configuration would require several hours, or days, of down time due largely in part to the cure times of the chemicals associated with the repair, Colonel Dulong said. This new configuration allows the maintenance crews the opportunity to achieve mission success in a shorter time.

"Earlier this year we sent our B-2s to Nellis Air Force Base to participate in a military exercise," Colonel Dulong said. "While preparing to go on a mission, one of the jets experienced a flight-control component failure during a launch sequence.

"Normally it would have taken several days to make the repair because the amount of time it takes to cure the special tapes and radar absorbing coating on the aircraft. However, because that was an AHFM configured aircraft, the repair took less than two hours and the B-2 flew on another mission that same evening."

Another maintenance action that has helped to increase the FMC rate of the B-2 is a temporary modification of a new windshield sealant of one aircraft. The sealant has lasted more than 300 hours of flying without any maintenance actions, a significant increase from the sealant currently used on the other B-2s in the fleet.

Once the analysis phase of the modification is complete, it is expected to beThe B-2 achieved a milestone when it exceeded Air Combat Command's fully mission capable rate standard of 51 percent in June, a feat not achieved since September 2004.

Keeping the B-2 ready for war is an effort that requires the hard work and support of everyone who works on base, said Col. Bob Dulong, 509th Maintenance Group commander.

For a B-2 to be FMC, it must be capable of successfully completing its intended mission of striking an enemy without being detected by radar.

The criteria used to determine the FMC rate of an aircraft is known as the Minimum Essential Subsystem Listing. The MESL is a detailed list of every subsystem that must be operational in order to determine the FMC rate of the aircraft.

Due in part to the aircraft's unique abilities, ACC recently changed the MESL criteria for the B-2 to more accurately reflect its low-observable status. Using several modeling techniques, members of the 509th Maintenance Squadron Signature Diagnostics Flight and the 509th Operational Support Squadron Survivability Flight developed the MESL to improve aircrew member's satisfaction with the outer coating of the B-2, Colonel Dulong said.

In addition to the policy change for deriving MESL criteria, the Airmen of the 509th MXS and Aircraft Maintenance Squadron also made improvements in their maintenance practices.

"The members of the 509th MXS and AMXS are dedicated to the Air Force mission," Senior Master Sgt. WilliamVance, 509th AMXS, said.

The maintainers of one of the most technologically advanced weapons system work anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per day, including a rotating 12-hour weekendduty schedule.

During the past 18 months, Whiteman has received four aircraft with a new outer coating known as alternate high frequency materials. A B-2 with the AHFM coating has surface panels that can be removed and reinstalled with a minimal amount of the LO coating needing restoration.

A B-2 in need of any LO maintenance without this new configuration would require several hours, or days, of down time due largely in part to the cure times of the chemicals associated with the repair, Colonel Dulong said. This new configuration allows the maintenance crews the opportunity to achieve mission success in a shorter time.

"Earlier this year we sent our B-2s to Nellis Air Force Base to participate in a military exercise," Colonel Dulong said. "While preparing to go on a mission, one of the jets experienced a flight-control component failure during a launch sequence.

"Normally it would have taken several days to make the repair because the amount of time it takes to cure the special tapes and radar absorbing coating on the aircraft. However, because that was an AHFM configured aircraft, the repair took less than two hours and the B-2 flew on another mission that same evening."

Another maintenance action that has helped to increase the FMC rate of the B-2 is a temporary modification of a new windshield sealant of one aircraft. The sealant has lasted more than 300 hours of flying without any maintenance actions, a significant increase from the sealant currently used on the other B-2s in the fleet.

Once the analysis phase of the modification is complete, it is expected to beimplemented fleetwide.

In addition to improved maintenance practices, there have also been improvements in the inspection process, Colonel Dulong said. The outer coating inspections have been based solely on visual inspection. A new program known as radio frequency diagnostics is currently in use to determine areas that require maintenance and to verify the completion of any maintenance actions.

Teamwork and improved communications between maintenance and operations has helped the wing quickly identify potential issues that might affect the B-2, said Chief Master Sgt. James Turner, 509th Maintenance Group chief. "With both sides working together, we've been able to decrease the loss of valuable manpower and allow maintainers to quickly and effectively keep the B-2 mission ready."

"I'm very proud of the work our maintenance Airmen do on a daily basis," Colonel Dulong said. "I am inspired by their performance and honored to serve with this great team of professionals."

Master Sgt. Buddy McClain, 509th Maintenance Operations Squadron first sergeant, rationalized the B-2 readiness improvements another way. "If it's in the air, maintenance put it there," he said.