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Force Magazine

Flying the Fleet
Aircraft maintainability is shifting from spares and support to guaranteed availability on the flight line

By Atul Chandra

A key improvement that has taken place across some of the newest acquisitions by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN) has been the substantially improved aircraft on tarmac availability.

The biggest change has been the willingness of both services to pay for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) maintenance and service support packages which guarantee aircraft readiness rates instead of merely providing the required spares and maintenance support. Such an approach also allows the economies of scale to be leveraged across a worldwide spares support base and clear forecasting of spares requirements based on the manufacturer and user data. This is a far cry from the Eighties and Nineties when brand new aircraft inducted from the erstwhile Soviet Union had poor flight line availability, with the manufacturers not being held accountable for significant shortfalls in aircraft reliability and excessive consumption of spare parts.

The IAF chose to go ahead with Boeing’s Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP) Performance-Based Logistics contract for its order of 10 aircraft, for which deliveries will be completed this year, with six already having been delivered. The new aircraft have been used extensively by the IAF, especially for humanitarian relief tasks, where the performance and reliability of the C-17 have been priceless. All support facilities for the C-17 have been setup at Hindon, and each aircraft in the fleet is expected to fly 500 hours per year. The GISP ‘virtual fleet’ arrangement ensures mission readiness by providing all C-17 customers access to an extensive support network for worldwide parts availability and economies of scale. The C-17 GISP is a system-level partnership designed around Performance Based Logistics (PBL) concepts, where the customer pays for readiness, rather than specific parts or services.

The C-17 GISP is a public-private agreement where operators pay for readiness, rather than specific parts or services. Under this arrangement, C-17 operators receive an agreed-to level of system readiness, as opposed to a traditional contract for specific spare parts and support services. This integrated logistics approach has allowed Boeing to apply innovative spare part forecasting and modelling tools to maximise aircraft availability while lowering costs. The benefits of C-17 GISP include having a single point of accountability which is a critical element to maintain overarching programme integration. Full system integration ensures one component of support will not be sub-optimised to support – or fix – another element. In many cases, Boeing has provided readiness levels that exceed those spelled out in the agreements. Over an eight-year period, the C-17 dollar-per-flight-hour rate was reduced by 29 per cent while maintaining a fleet-wide average mission capable rate of 85 per cent – saving more than USD 1 billion. This was accomplished while increasing the fleet size and standing up new operating bases.

The IAF has chosen Boeing’s C-17 GISP program which provides it with guaranteed flight line availability for the massive transports
The IAF has chosen Boeing’s C-17 GISP program which provides it with guaranteed flight line availability for the massive transports

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