NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Common Aviation Support Equipment Program Office (PMA-260) was honored with the NAVAIR Commander’s Award on May 31 for its outstanding advocacy of small businesses. The annual ceremony held at Patuxent River highlighted PMA-260’s commitment to innovation and collaboration with small enterprises.

Captain Matt Wilcox, the program manager of PMA-260, emphasized the significance of small businesses in the defense industrial base. He praised the program office’s efforts in leveraging this invaluable resource, stating, “Through continued use of this important and valuable resource, PMA-260 delivers new capabilities to the fleet faster, improving aircraft readiness and resulting in increased combat effectiveness.”

The Common Aviation Support Equipment Program Office (PMA-260) received a NAVAIR Commander’s Award for small business advocacy in a ceremony May 31. From left, Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, NAVAIR commander, presented the award to Capt. Matt Wilcox, PMA-260 program manager, and Terressa Bebout, the Commander, Fleet Readiness Center small business deputy.

PMA-260 demonstrated its dedication to small business collaboration through several initiatives. The team sponsored five successful Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programs, showcasing the value of partnering with small enterprises. Furthermore, the Program Executive Office, Aviation Common Systems and Commercial Services, led by allocating 20 percent of its obligation authority to small businesses.

Two of the sponsored SBIR programs focus on enhancing support equipment availability through predictive and interchangeable capabilities. Ongoing research aims to identify and standardize data collection capabilities related to health, environment, and performance. This data will facilitate the development of innovative technologies that streamline the adoption of condition-based and predictive maintenance techniques in Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) and Test Program Sets (TPS). Another program employs open architecture tools to manage ATE capabilities efficiently. The goal is to establish a comprehensive library and a method for storing, maintaining, managing, and reporting test capabilities for ATE. These programs can potentially expedite the repair process and extend the operational use of support equipment, resulting in improved efficiency and cost savings.

George Lehaf, the PMA-260 team lead, emphasized the broader impact of collaborating with small businesses through the SBIR program. “Teaming up with small businesses through the SBIR program not only provides value to our program office by allowing us to advance our technology solutions, but it also fosters communication and shared solutions across other services that share the same needs as us,” Lehaf explained. The ATE-based SBIR topics serve as an example of PMA-260’s regular engagement with counterparts in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps to ensure that the developments benefit their needs alongside those of the Navy stakeholders.

In pursuit of innovation, the program office joined forces with Allied Systems Company, a small business industry partner. Together, they developed new Carrier and Amphibious Assault Crash and Salvage cranes. These cranes are critical in performing essential aircraft crash and salvage functions on aircraft carriers and amphibious ships. The newly developed cranes replace legacy ones that have been in operation for several decades. As the aging parts of the legacy cranes become increasingly obsolete and costly to maintain, the new cranes offer potential savings of thousands of dollars per year in repair costs.

The PMA-260 Common Support Equipment deputy program manager Sean Demme acknowledged the challenge of attracting industry investment in research and development for products with limited market potential. However, PMA-260 found an ideal partner in Allied Systems Company, whose engineering expertise in designing marine cranes and large mobile industrial equipment perfectly suited the naval aviation requirements.

Another small business collaboration was forged with Technology for Energy Corporation. This partnership aimed to modernize the fleet’s capability to collect, process, and display vibration data for airframes, engines, and gearboxes. The program office worked with the small business to develop Advanced Track and Balancing Set Upgrade Kits, replacing outdated processors, data acquisition boards, drives, and displays.

The program office actively supports small businesses by awarding contracts to various categories of small enterprises. In 2022, PMA-260 selected 12 different small businesses for contractor program management, engineering, logistics, and cybersecurity support services. These contracts also included the development of technical manuals and training courses for fielded aviation support equipment end items. By engaging a diverse range of small/disadvantaged small businesses, service-disabled and veteran-owned enterprises, women-owned businesses, and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) companies, PMA-260 demonstrates its commitment to fostering opportunities and promoting inclusivity in the defense industry.

The recognition received by PMA-260 for its small business advocacy underscores the importance of collaboration between large government entities and smaller enterprises. Through initiatives like the SBIR program and strategic partnerships, the program office has effectively harnessed small businesses’ innovation, expertise, and resources. This collaboration drives technological advancements and encourages knowledge sharing and cooperative solutions across different branches of the military.

The success of PMA-260 in advancing aviation support equipment through small business partnerships ultimately benefits the entire fleet. By delivering new capabilities faster and improving aircraft readiness, the program office enhances the combat effectiveness of the Navy. Moreover, the emphasis on predictive maintenance techniques and streamlined repair processes ensures that support equipment remains available for operational use longer, reducing downtime and increasing efficiency.

As PMA-260 continues to prioritize small business collaboration, it sets a commendable example for other program offices within NAVAIR and the defense industry as a whole. By recognizing the unique value that small businesses bring to the table and actively seeking their expertise, PMA-260 demonstrates a commitment to innovation, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Through these efforts, the program office contributes to the overall strength and readiness of the Navy’s aviation support capabilities.

In conclusion, the Common Aviation Support Equipment Program Office (PMA-260) at NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND received the NAVAIR Commander’s Award for its exceptional advocacy of small businesses. Through initiatives like the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programs and strategic partnerships, PMA-260 has demonstrated the value of collaborating with small enterprises. By leveraging small businesses’ innovation, resources, and expertise, PMA-260 enhances the fleet’s capabilities, improves aircraft readiness, and increases combat effectiveness. The program office’s dedication to predictive maintenance techniques, streamlined repair processes, and efficient support equipment management ensures cost savings and operational efficiency. PMA-260’s recognition serves as a testament to the importance of small business partnerships in driving innovation and progress in the defense industry.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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