Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Perishability of Institutional Memory

There are costs to kicking a can down the road. Real costs, programmatic costs - and as a secondary effect; a cost to future leaders' credibility. Let's add this to our long list in the tale of woe about the "unsexy but important." This is on a topic we touched on briefly with CAPT Carmen on Midrats last Sunday; the C-2A. In an interview with Seapower Magazine, RADM Bill Moran had the following exchange with his interviewer;
(Q:) What is the status of the C-2 COD aircraft? MORAN: We are just starting looking at the COD replacement. ...
No. Stop. Wait. That is as wrong as two ... well ... you know how wrong that is. This has been well withing the scan of the Navy for a decade and a half at least (just google Common Support Aircraft) or read CAPT Steve Kingston's article from the August 1999 edition of the Naval Institute's Proceedings

RADM Moran is not a a dim bulb or a bu11sh1tter. Perhaps from a programmatic POV, his statement is "inaccurate but correct" but it just adds to an atmosphere of parallel truth that continues to erode the Navy's credibility inside and outside the lifelines of the organization. 

He gives a nuanced answer about the esoteric Littoral Surveillance Radar System - but whiffs at the C-2 issue? The reason why is simple; RADM Moran is a P-3 bubba. 

This answer (or lack of it) of his is the result of shifting decisions so far to the right that their history and pedigree is lost in the fog of time. It is about sponsorship, parochialism and the curse of the unsexy but important. 

How many E-2 and C-2 people over the last decade have held positions of influence at OPNAV N98? Who are the Requirement Officers of that background over the last few years? 

"Just looking" - no, as an institution we have just once again forced ourselves in to crisis management. Saving a dime now that forces us to spend a dollar tomorrow, and setting up future leaders to have moments of professional amnesia. 

Hat tip to those who deserve it.

UPDATE: FNG in comments has some ground truth reports in comments that are worth repeating in full here;
The Eisenhower is about 1/3 of the way through its deployment. Thus far, the COD DET has replaced 2 engines- one after diverting into a field for a prop issue. (the root cause was a weak gearbox that cracked open the propeller hydraulic pump housing causing fluid to leak out. Had the engine not been feathered when it was, it would not have feathered fully.) One aircraft has been down for corrosion and delamination of the wing skin for nearly a month. There have been two combine hydraulic system failures that drained all fluid from the system- once shortly after takeoff from the field (with passengers aboard) and the other once the wings spread on the catapult, leaving the aircraft unable to fold its wings, or move its flaps- the required part to fix it was scavenged off the aforementioned corrosion bird. This cannibalization is common, significantly increasing man-hours required to fix aircraft as the part must first be removed from a down bird, re-installed, then the process repeated to get the donor aircraft airworthy. I could continue on about the problems facing the enlisted aircrew, but this post is too long already. The Maintenance crews that work on these aircraft are heroic. For those that talk about the SLEP, it is my understanding that the 2027 life extension applies only to the airframe structure, and not to hydraulic/electric/flight control/AFCS/engine/propulsion issues. (The E-2 has a slightly upgraded engine with a more sophisticated electronic engine control.) The new propeller and avionics suite are nice, but they are incremental improvements to an aging airframe. As for the V-22, there are three significant problems with it as compared to the COD: lack of range, lack of interior space, and (most importantly) unsuitability for carrier operations. They cannot work into cyclic operations, meaning the hit must be made at a point when there are no flight operations ongoing. It is my understanding they cannot pressurize. They must be landed on the rear of the ship. In short, they function as a larger, faster H-53 which is fine, but it will significantly decrease the usability of the platform and carrier it supports. To modify the existing V-22 for COD missions will be as extensive as creating a C-2 from the E-2D. Also- there's a lot of moving parts in a harsh environment. Does anyone think they will still be as reliable and safe at the C-2's current age? the community can make it work if required, but (in my opinion) there are severe enough drawbacks to justify re-manufacturing the COD.

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