April 2022 | Content by Dana Whalley, NAPMA Programme Management Division Head

N1-induction; A FLEP Milestone

The ‘long climb’ towards the induction of the first Final Lifetime Extension Programme (FLEP) aircraft (N-1) for modification has come to a successful conclusion. On 11 April, the N-1 aircraft departed MOB Geilenkirchen for the Leonardo modification facility in Tessera, Italy. The milestone was recently celebrated by a group of NAEW&CF, NAPMA and Boeing personnel at a social event where speeches were given, toast were made and people took time to discuss past and future N-1 activities.

© 2022 - NATO

At a recent Programme Management Review (PMR) at Boeing in Oklahoma City, I took the time to reflect upon the ‘long climb’ we have taken to get to this point in the programme. When speaking to the NAEW&CF, NAPMA and Boeing team, I used my “Mountain (Mt) Fuji” analogy to describe this journey. If you look at Mt Fuji, it is a large, majestic mountain that starts with a very long, gradual climb that turns into a steep climb to the summit.

This is very similar to how many major defense acquisition programmes can be viewed. They are large ($1.0B) and majestic (NATO E-3A). Our long, gradual climb started in July of 2017 when we began drafting the Technical Requirements Document and the Acquisition Strategy during the Risk Reduction phase. We baselined the FLEP requirements at the System Requirements Review in October 2018, released the FLEP Request For Proposal in October 2018, completed the Preliminary Design Review in November 2019, obtained Board of Directors approval to awarded the FLEP Contract, and signed the contract on 27 November 2019. In December 2020 we finalized the FLEP design at the Critical Design Review meetings.

With the requirements stabilized and the design in place we continued our long steady climb towards the N-1 Modification Readiness Review (MRR). We spent nearly a year ensuring that the necessary parts and drawings were available, job cards and work orders ready, and detailed schedules in place to assure a suitable modification flow. The MRR was completed in February 2022 and in March the NAEW&C Force Commander and NAPMA General Manager agreed to release N-1 for Modification.

At the PMR in March 2022, my message was simple:
“We should be proud of what we have accomplished during the past 4+ years but the steep climb is now ahead of us. We have to finish the N-1 modification in the next 12 months, complete the Mission System Software development, install the System Integration Laboratory and Ground Systems at MOB GK, resolve hardware and software integration problems, validate and verify the Technical Orders and train the initial cadre of operators and maintainers. Afterwards, we have 13 additional aircraft to modify.”

Collectively, the NAEW&CF, NAPMA, and Boeing team has done an excellent job to put ourselves in position to be successful. Many large programmes have already incurred cost overruns and schedule delays at this point in the acquisition process. So yes, it was appropriate to look back down the mountain and to have a drink in celebration of the induction of N-1 but the team is very aware of what lays ahead of us and the challenges we still face. To get to the summit, we will have to continue the honest, transparent and cooperative relationship that has gotten us this far up the mountain.

The team has already started climbing again, slow and steady up the mountain.

© 2022 - NATO

All rights are reserved to NAPMA - NATO AEW&C Programme Management Agency | NAPMA Website - Terms Of Use