Singapore Researching Condition-Based Maintenance
Maintenance trends are one of the most underrated issues in the defense field. Britain is leading the way with “contracting for availability” approaches that pay fixed annual costs over a system’s lifetime, and reward firms for ready-to-go weapons rather than paying for spares and maintenance hours. America, and many other air forces as well, are grappling with aging aircraft fleets whose average age exceeds their pilots’.
Then there’s the related trend of prognostics and HUMS(Health & Usage Monitoring Systems) that monitor parts, predict key failures in advance, and may even be tied to fleet-wide artificial intelligence systems. With enough prognostics, goes the theory, it may be possible to eliminate unneeded “routine” maintenance, restricting work to “condition based maintenance” while pinpointing failure-prone areas more exactly and working to improve them throughout the fleet. The end result? More aircraft available, at less long-term cost. That has certainly been the case with Britain’s Tornado aircraft and their RB199 engines, for instance, which had been described as “easy to remove for maintenance – often.”
Singapore has a global reputation for being a sharp observer and implementer of defense trends, in a society that stresses efficiency on many levels.
Along those lines, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and EADS parties, represented by EADS Singapore Research and Technology Centre (EADS SRTC), Eurocopter (EC) and its Singaporean subsidiary Eurocopter South East Asia (ESEA), jointly announced a 3-year collaborative research program covering Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) for the RSAF’s AS332 Super Puma medium helicopter fleet. Singapore was one of the first air forces to use HUMS technology in its platforms, and the Super Pumas will be equipped with a EuroHUMS suite to extract and manage relevant data.
Colonel Francis Cheong Han Kwok, Deputy Head Air Logistics (Engineering) of the RSAF, says that:
“A state-of-the-art diagnostic and prognostic maintenance system, supported by advanced sensors, is the goal of this research program”
Mr. Gerard Maitrepierre, President of Eurocopter SEA, touches on a few other recurring trends in Singapore’s defense acqisition behavior when hw added that:
“…more importantly, the project will showcase and strengthen Singapore’s position as the centre of excellence for aerospace research and add value to the thriving local MRO hub… This collaboration is a concrete example of how the industry and military organisation can partner effectively to translate a promising research concept into state-of-the-art helicopter maintenance practices.”