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NEWS | Aug. 30, 2022

Letterkenny Army Depot hosts OIB modernization symposium

By Dorie Heyer Letterkenny Army Depot

Subject matter experts in various disciplines gathered in person and virtually for the second iteration of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Organic Industrial Base Symposium Aug. 2-4 at Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania.

The symposium, hosted by Letterkenny Army Depot, was focused on aligning the strategic direction of the AMCOM OIB with the Army modernization strategy to ensure that the depots can sustain the multi-domain force of 2035.

Tom Ray, director of the AMCOM Logistics Center Industrial Operations Directorate, further elaborated on the goals and expectations for the three-day event.

“We have experts on-site looking at the depot to see how we can modernize today,” Ray said. “This [symposium] provides an opportunity for continuing conversation and collaboration to support modernization efforts.”

Col. Ricky L. Allbritton, commander, Letterkenny Army Depot, also provided an overview of how the depot supports modernization efforts.

“We have a multitude of emerging technologies such as blue-light scanning and 3D printing that we are trying to leverage to provide a direct benefit to the warfighter,” Allbritton remarked. “We will continue to acquire technology to expand our ability to support DOD readiness.”

Col. Richard Martin, the deputy director for the U.S. Army Materiel Command OIB Modernization Task Force, joined the event virtually to provide updates on the OIB modernization efforts taking place Army-wide.

“The modernization implementation plan takes a bottom-up approach and follows a top-down refinement model,” Martin said. “Phase one of this 15-year plan will begin in 2024 and will be condition-based moving into subsequent phases.”

Martin also provided insight into what the depots are currently doing to prepare for future phases and how AMC prioritizes OIB modernization.

“We want to get more work, better work, to the depots,” Martin said. “Your value is in what capabilities you retain to be able to surge when the Army needs it.”

Martin highlighted the importance of making the right decisions when investing in modernization. Whether the projects focus on facility upgrades, updating technology or adequately aligning the workforce to meet workload demands, he stressed the importance of making economical investments in the right places and looking to leverage those investments into industry partnerships where relevant.

“We aren’t going to increase capacity or production capability if it’s just a new version of the same thing. We also don’t want to buy more than we’ll ever need,” Martin said. “There are some things we want to build where we have the extra capacity to do so, and if we’re not using it, we can offer that to industry partners as a public-private partnership if it’s a CITE (Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence) designation. It keeps us arguably with the right workload and the right programming.”

There were additional discussions centered around emerging systems, developments in academia and depot modernization plans.

The team also discussed ways to overcome challenges associated with modernization, tied explicitly to the sustainment of emerging weapon systems. Representatives from the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office were on hand to provide insight into the rapid development process, specifically for the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, and how sustainment factors into the process.

“Schedule is king when it comes to rapid acquisition,” said Ed Zarnesky, a program integrator within Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition. “We’re delivering a residual combat capability, and I think the depot has a big hand in the sustainment of this.”

Although the emphasis on rapid development doesn’t necessarily account for sustainment early in the acquisition process, Ray warned that failure to look toward managing and repairing these systems could be disadvantageous to modernization.

“We need a balance with schedule requirements and build quality and cost savings into the process,” Ray said. “It’s going to be detrimental to the Army if we’re not thinking about sustainment in the beginning.”

Symposium attendees also had the opportunity to tour various areas of Letterkenny Army Depot to experience modernization efforts and emerging technology acquisition first-hand. While touring the depot’s production facilities, subject matter experts provided information on the newly acquired capabilities, including cold spray technology, blue-light scanning and shop-floor analytic tools.

Artisans at Letterkenny are using cold spray technology to perform non-structural repairs, including repairs of corrosion and other surface defects. Cold spray offers additional repair benefits because of the lower operating temperature.

“Cold spray is an additive manufacturing technology that we’re using to repair parts,” said Ashley Filling, a production engineer at LEAD. “Unlike other additive manufacturing technologies that are used to make parts, cold spray is used to repair many different materials. We’re focusing on aluminum right now, but are looking to expand into steel repairs as well.”

Blue-light scanning technology was initially acquired to generate surface measurement analyses of turrets for the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program. Still, artisans and engineers have expanded the technology into other programs, increasing Letterkenny’s adaptability to production program needs through faster turn-around times for reverse engineering.

“It helps us make our process more efficient, which provides a direct benefit to meeting our customer’s requirements,” said Will Greenland, Production and Engineering Division chief.

The AMCOM Modernization Symposium created an environment of knowledge-sharing, collaboration and mitigates duplication of effort. Through extensive discussions, sharing best practices and hearing about emerging technology from partners in industry and academia, the symposium served as an avenue toward modernization of the OIB.

“The big objective is the modernization of the OIB and how to meet the challenge of putting that new technology into the depot,” Ray stated. “The depot is here to make you successful in your current and future endeavors.”