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IN-SERVICE SUPPORT – L3Harris Technologies

IN-SERVICE SUPPORT – L3Harris Technologies

BY MARC MONTGOMERY

Since 2012, L3Harris has provided comprehensive ISS for the RCAF’s CC-150 fleet

L3Harris Technologies

Well-positioned to support Canada’s future F-35 Lightning II, the new A330 MRTT and all training aircraft as part of FAcT

How many major firms do you know where the top executive makes it a point to meet with every new employee? Or where the top executive has a policy of regularly visiting workers on the factory floor? This is the style of Ugo Paniconi, General Manager of L3Harris Technologies in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada’s leading military aircraft In-Service Support (ISS) provider.

Paniconi, originally a McGill graduate in electrical engineering who also has decades of aerospace project management experience under his belt, told CDR that when he was promoted to his current role in 2019, the pride and passion at L3Harris had been long established. It’s a corporate culture which has served the company well during their 75+ year history of close collaboration with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

A PEDIGREE OF SUCCESS

It is this record that resulted in the company being named by CDR as Canada’s Top Defence Company of the Year in 2006, 2011 and most recently in 2021.

L3Harris Technologies, previously known as L3Harris Technologies MAS, employs over 750 workers in Mirabel and Enfield, Nova Scotia for major depot level aircraft maintenance, component repair, engineering and support. Almost 300 others work directly with RCAF first- and second-line maintenance personnel on Canadian Forces Bases across Canada and, in some cases, even travel with the RCAF on deployments. There are also L3Harris personnel working with Weapons Systems Management staff at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.

“What’s great about our role is being close to the action, being on the front line, and providing that support to our customer,” said Paniconi. “Understanding what their needs are and supporting the fleet really allows us to provide a lot of benefits in terms of responsiveness, flexibility and performance,” he told CDR.

At every level, providing outstanding ISS on major RCAF platforms is the company’s primary mission. These RCAF platforms include the CC-150 Polaris; CH-148 Cyclone; CP-140 Aurora; CH-147 Chinook; CT-114 Tutor (Snowbirds); CF-188 Hornet and now the first of the incoming CC-330 fleet, as part of the government’s Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC) project.

Now in it’s 37th year as provider of fleet management and ISS for the CF-188, it was this contract that prompted the company’s move from Montreal to Mirabel in the late 1980’s.

Fighter aircraft sustainment requires a level of specialized capability that sets it apart from other military or commercial aircraft. The Mirabel facility is custom-designed for fighter aircraft support and is truly unique in terms of location, security, infrastructure and technology, housing specialized L3Harris resources in maintenance, engineering, logistics and fabrication.

Located in the heart of one of the world’s largest aerospace clusters, L3Harris supports an extensive industrial network of suppliers, partners, and recruiting sources all adding to the economic benefit advantages for Canada with these military contracts. Other advantages of the location include access to two 12,000-foot runways with mobile arresting gear and a local controlled/restricted airspace for flight testing.

A specialized facility is located within the main hangar to repair, rebuild or fabricate parts as needed. Paniconi says in the instance of a defective component, the company will assess the most cost-effective process to get the aircraft back in service. This involves a determination on whether it is quicker and less expensive to repair the component on-site, send it to a specialized partner, or to order a new component. Whatever the case, Paniconi says they always seek the best solution for the client.

According to Ugo Paniconi, technology continues to play a major role in L3Harris’ success

CANADA’S ONLY FIGHTER CENTER OF EXCELLENCE 

Indeed, with its history on the CF-18, L3Harris is undeniably the only fighter aircraft center of excellence in Canada.

Aircraft often have life-limiting structural components. For the CF-188, with access to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) data, L3Harris has been able to create innovative techniques, upgrades and structural modifications to extend the combat-effective service life of the fleet by an amazing 25 years.

This is a huge success story for Canada and L3Harris alike. In fact, L3Harris’s success in extending Canada’s fighter fleet has attracted business from other nations, including Australia, Switzerland, Finland, and Spain. In addition, as a further sign of confidence, the company has also secured depot level maintenance for F-18 aircraft for the U.S. Navy, Marines and NASA.

Paniconi also told CDR that it was through the company’s expertise and reputation with the fighter program that they were able to win contracts to support other fixed wing and rotary wing platforms, for which now cross-pollinate projects and resources, thus increasing their experience and international reputation as a leader in military aircraft ISS.

Early in 2022, L3Harris was awarded a 4-year, $609 million performance-based contract extension, with option years, to continue ISS of the RCAF’s CF-188 Hornet fighter fleet. This contract extension will be in effect until the CF-188 Hornet fleet is replaced with the F-35 in the 2032 timeframe. Under a Sustainment Business Case Analysis, the company’s record of commitment to performance value for money, flexibility, and economic benefits led to the award.

INNOVATION & EFFICIENCY

L3Harris continually applies innovation to offer increased efficiency and savings to customers. Aircraft have life-limited components which can be both difficult and costly to access and repair.

On the F/A-18, one such component is the centre barrel fuel tank area. Normally this would require major disassembly of the airframe to access, assess and recondition the tank structure. As an example of the company’s innovative use of technology to facilitate major maintenance requirements, they developed a precision robotic solution to rapidly and precisely go inside the aircraft to modify and then toughen the metal through shot-peening. Applicable to other platforms and maintenance, it represents a unique L3Harris procedure that greatly reduces downtime and costs for the customer.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is another example of L3Harris’ adoption of state-of-the-art technology. In this case, AI is used to analyse usage and failure data to apply predictive maintenance philosophies to the fleet to try to address problems before they occur. This again reduces downtime and costs, and potentially, saves lives.

A major avionics upgrade and substantial redesign of the Tutor cockpit is yet another example of the company’s use of technology to create efficiencies by using 3D scanning and printing to create prototype components and systems layout. This rapid prototyping detects design problems enabling modification at an early stage of the process. This reduces downtime and costs by ensuring everything fits in the design before resorting to production components and installations. As the OEM for the Tutor in the 1960’s, L3Harris has been involved in the aircraft’s ISS ever since. “In everything we do, we’re always looking for innovative approaches and looking at how we can use technology to improve the way we perform our work,” Paniconi told CDR.

: L3Harris is well-positioned to support Canada’s future F-35 fighter jet fleet

WELL-POSITIONED FOR F-35 

Paniconi says that L3Harris is very well-positioned to provide depot maintenance and ISS for the RCAF’s transition to the next generation of aircraft, including the F-35 fighter jet as part of the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP).

According to Paniconi, L3Harris has most of the components already in place for a smooth and low-risk transition to new platforms including wide-ranging company expertise and capabilities, security, infrastructure, one of the largest non-OEM engineering teams in Canada, and established reliable supply chains and aerospace partners.

In addition, Paniconi highlights L3Harris’ record of excellence in program management, logistic support, software support, electronic publications to the latest S1000D standard, material management, and maintenance at all levels. “Technology continues to play a major role in our success. The goal is to minimize downtime and get the aircraft back into service as quickly as possible,” says Paniconi.

Security is always of extreme importance and for the highly sophisticated F-35, protecting the operational data is critical. In addition to security-cleared personnel, L3Harris offers unique and specialized facilities to accommodate the higher level of physical and cyber security required.

STTC

Since 2012, L3Harris has provided comprehensive ISS for the RCAF’s CC-150 Polaris fleet of Airbus A310-300 aircraft in their VVIP/Head of State, Air-to-Air Refuellers, cargo, and passenger configurations. Canada is now looking to supplement the ageing CC-150s with the purchase of two Airbus-330-200 aircraft. Eventually these aircraft will be converted and new A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) aircraft will be acquired to fulfill Canada’s Strategic Tanker Transport Capability.

L3Harris has over 10 years experience in providing valued ISS for the Polaris fleet. This includes many on-time, on-budget missionized system modifications to the five aircraft from their origins as commercial airliners. Another company had been maintaining the five CC-150s until it suddenly shut down on March 18th, 2012. When the government needed a quick solution to sustain the fleet, L3Harris won the competition, stepped in and took over the ISS work on short notice, thus demonstrating its agility and flexibility. The aircraft also underwent several critical modifications by L3Harris, including secure communications, mission systems and the implementation of medi-vac modifications for in-patient transfer units for injured soldiers.

“We do everything on this plane except fly it, with support as needed from Airbus,” said Paniconi.

Of note, L3Harris has received several commendations for its work on supporting the mission-critical CC-150 fleet, both at home and on deployment. Commendations for L3Harris performance came from the RCAF deployed operation commanders who wrote, “Since the deployment of the CC-150(T) fleet to support Op IMPACT, the Tanker fleet has achieved an impressive 98.7% dispatch reliability. This consistent performance success is a result of the dedicated work of the L3Harris crew in theatre, a qualified pool of reach-back resources, and the proactive and responsive In-Service Support provided by L3Harris Engineering, Supply Chain, Maintenance and Program Management.”

The team received another commendation from the Commander of the Joint Task Force-Op IMPACT who wrote, “…the 7051 hours and 1166 missions flown in support of coalition operations – a stunning achievement for a single airframe deployment and underscores the commitment and excellence of your team.”

In 2022, L3Harris was selected for interim ISS on the first two CC-330’s with a 2-year contract with two 1-year options.

As it has for the CC-150 fleet, the company will provide the CC-330 fleet overall program management, material management, engineering support services, heavy maintenance and component maintenance, repair and overhaul (MR&O) services in Mirabel along with set-up and execution of the line maintenance support at the Ottawa airport, and all deployment support as well.

PART OF THE BLCAT TEAM FOR FACT

In addition to the wealth of ISS experience with the various RCAF fleets, L3Harris is also positioned to play an important role in Canada’s Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) program. The company is a Tier-1 partner to the Babcock-Leonardo Canadian Aircrew Training (BLCAT) team, who are offering a first-in-class, student-centric solution to ensure Canada receives the right number of aircrew, at the right time and to the right standard. The BLCAT team is comprised of leading Canadian companies, including L3Harris in Quebec, who is slated to provide complete ISS to all the training aircraft fleets under FAcT.

A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR L3HARRIS

Paniconi says that he is very proud of all that L3Harris has accomplished during its rich history supporting the RCAF, but is even more excited with what the future holds in store for the company. L3Harris is Canada’s only fighter aircraft center of excellence with decades of applicable experience and success on the F/A-18, and is also the current ISS partner on both the CC-150 and CC-330 fleets. As such, L3Harris is in the unique position to offer Canada the lowest risk transition and highest level of readiness throughout the introduction and operation of both the incoming F-35 and the CC-330 MRTT fleets. Their ISS expertise is also ideally suited to the FAcT program to help ensure the effective generation of RCAF aircrew for decades to come. L3Harris remains committed to helping the RCAF achieve continued mission success and for Canada to meet its Defence commitments at home and abroad.

Marc Montgomery is a Regular CDR Contributor

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