December 2020 | Content by Dana Whalley, NAPMA Programme Management Division Head

Final Lifetime Extension Programme Passes Critical Milestone!

While the next NE-3A modernisation effort may seem a long distance away, the NAPMO FLEP Team recently passed an important programme milestone with the successful completion of Critical Design Review (CDR). The CDR event consisted of an intense technical review conducted to ensure that the technical design is mature enough for the system to proceed with development, fabrication and test. Now that all of the programme’s stakeholders have a solid grip on what we want to build, the Boeing company and its European subcontractors are cleared hot to go and build it, test it and field it.

FLEP meeting at NAPMA Brunssum.
© 2020 - NAPMA

Travel restrictions associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made the completion of CDR even more difficult than it should have been. Under normal conditions, the NAPMA and NAEW&C Force’s FLEP team would have traveled to Oklahoma City to meet with their industry partners and pore over mountains of complex technical data. Instead, the raging virus forced the team to conduct these meetings virtually, compounded by a seven-hour time difference. Through sheer perseverance, fueled by gallons of strong coffee, the two sides met the CDR challenge.

The CDR focused on the FLEP System Architecture, Mission System Software and Hardware, Communications Hardware, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) Software and Hardware, Air Vehicle physical impacts and all Ground Systems.

At CDR completion, NAPMA assessed the Boeing design as having met the conditions laid out in the acquisition contract with a few minor exceptions. NAPMA expects these gaps to be quickly and effectively addressed by the contractor team in the coming months. With the completion of CDR, the FLEP detailed design is now frozen and any future requirements or design changes that impact the technical design will likely result in cost and/or schedule impacts. That’s something the Agency will aggressively try to avoid.

Without the close working relationship between NAPMA, the NAEW&C Force and Boeing, completion of this significant accomplishment would not have been possible. The fact that this happened while COVID-19 continues to impact everyday life makes this accomplishment even more remarkable.

NAPMA and its FLEP teammates will now turn their attention toward the coming year when Ground Systems installation activities will commence at MOB Geilenkirchen and the Agency prepares for the next critical milestone -- the N-1 Modification Readiness Review in early 2022, another important step toward ensuring the NATO E-3A’s operational viability into the next decade.

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