NAVAIR Systems Command Public Affairs Office

NAS Pax River, MD- With the fleet of Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS) terminals slated to grow from hundreds to over 6000 by 2023, the MIDS Program Office (PMA-101) designed a strategy and initiatied the plan to avert potential depot maintenance support shortfalls.

“The community of MIDS JTRS users is exploding with 1,000% growth expected in the next three years,” said Capt. Shaun Swartz, PMA-101 program manager. “As all US services and the international Link-16 MIDS users try to meet the Crypto Modernization Mandate, we need to ensure we are postured to support and sustain this critical capability for our fleets.”

Without decisive action to bridge the MIDS JTRS repair capacity gap, the existing maintenance depot capacity is projected to be overwhelmed by the end of 2021 and mission readiness will be negatively impacted.

“When we looked at the dramatic increase in sustainment support required in the next few years, we knew we had to quickly assess all our options and successfully implement the needed changes to ensure uninterrupted warfighter readiness,” said Michael Perrone, MIDS JTRS Product Support Manager (PSM).

Integrated Process Team (IPT) members addressing the capacity gap include both Navy and Air Force professionals from their respective program offices, maintenance depots, supply support activities and contracting offices and the two MIDS JTRS Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), as well as Deloitte Consulting LLP – a firm engaged to provide defense sustainment subject matter expertise, develop a business case analysis and depot implementation plan, and facilitate/guide IPT deliberations.

Beginning with a sustainment environment where all depot repairs were being performed exclusively by the OEMs, the IPT examined a broad spectrum of options to bridge the projected capacity gap from simply expanding the OEMs’ capacity to the creation of an organic military service depot-level MIDS JTRS test/check, repair and return capability. After eight months of in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis of alternative Courses of Action (COA), the IPT tentatively settled on two. Key elements of both COAs include:

  • The creation of a military Service MIDS JTRS depot maintenance capability, enabled by Public Private Partnerships (PPP) with one or both OEMs;
  • Tighter integration of Navy and Air Force sustainment planning, management and sourcing activities;
  • The evolution from existing transactional arrangements with the two OEMs to long term outcome-based relationships within the next few years.

While discussions are still ongoing, the key difference between the two COAs is whether contracts will be done separately by each service or by a single service contracting office.

Both COAs safeguard warfighter readiness, make investments in organic Service capabilities and enhance government artisans’ capabilities through the addition of highly technical and complex systems maintenance skills.

With production ramping up to fulfill the additional requirements of the warfighter, the OEMs are challenged with the competing requirements to deliver new terminals, retrofit existing terminals to the latest configurations and repair failed equipment returning from the fleet. Adding a service depot maintenance capability enabled by a PPP gives the OEMs the ability to leverage the government artisans, equipment and facilities to meet the growing depot repair/retrofit demands while still attending to their production requirements.

“Working with our trusted OEMs in a Public Private Partnership will give us the organic depot maintenance capability needed to achieve the readiness levels required,” Swartz said.

Another major milestone was met when the depot selection evaluation team unanimously recommended, and the IPT concurred, with the selection of Fleet Readiness Center South West (FRCSW) as the future Service MIDS JTRS maintenance depot in late February 2020. Planning meetings between FRCSW and the two OEMs have already commenced.

“FRCSW is excited to be part of the MIDS JTRS future sustainment strategy,” said Tim Schupp, FRCSW Business Development, “We are looking forward to the opportunity to partner with the OEMs and the MPO in support of our nation’s warfighters and those of our allies.”

Looking ahead over the next few months, final analyses of the quantitative data associated with each of the depot expansion COAs will be completed, documentation of the selected strategy will be crafted and an implementation plan will be developed. IPT members are scheduled to meet in late May to decide which of the two COAs will recommended to the program office. In the near future, specifics of the PPP arrangements between FRCSW and the OEMs will be finalized and initial workload will begin transitioning from the OEMs to FRCSW. The MIDS JTRS plan is to start small, achieve success, then scale as rapidly as positive returns allow.

Finally, while every weapon system and sub-system is unique and must be managed accordingly, the overarching process employed to address MIDS JTRS depot capacity challenges is broadly tailorable to most, if not all, defense sustainment improvement opportunities. The methodology, outcomes achieved, and lessons learned will have wide-ranging applicability to programs facing similar maintenance requirements.

More About MIDS JTRS

The MIDS Program Office mission is to develop, field and support interoperable, affordable, and secure Link 16, Advanced Tactical Data Link (ATDL), as well as programmable networking technologies and capabilities for joint, coalition, and international warfighters. The MIDS JTRS terminal is a 4-channel Software-Defined Radio (SDR) designed to run the complex Link 16 waveform and up to three additional communication protocols, including the Airborne Networking Waveform (ANW).  For the joint warfighting community, this SDR technology in today’s dynamic C4I environment is a highly critical requirement.  Concurrent multi-netting, multi-channel and plug-n-play SDR capabilities are all part of delivering cutting-edge MIDS JTRS technology to the forward deployed warfighter.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...