Securing air force availability at the forward operating base

Air forces all over the world are facing an increased number of international assignments, such as disaster relief and peace keeping missions. Add the everyday responsibility to maintain national sovereignty and it’s easy to see that new requirements are put into play. Flexibility and mobility becomes increasingly important as well as the constant challenge of dealing with asymmetric threats from enemies and terrorists.

One of the most essential parameters of an aircraft fleet at all times is availability. In any emergency, missions have to be carried out quickly and flexible. With mobile airbases, air forces acquire the ability to quickly reorganise for both national and international missions and get closer to the mission area. Consequently becoming more efficient.However, this places a need for effective aircraft support solutions.

Saab has a solution called Deployable Aircraft Maintenance Facility consisting of a field hangar and maintenance containers that enable enhanced maintenance capabilities. Instead of sending fighter aircraft and helicopters back to the main operating base, increased service can be carried out at the forward operating base. As a result, the availability and ability of the aircraft fleet increase.

“Solutions for mobile air bases increases an air force’s operational ability, both during training and real-time deployable operations,” says Christoffer Rashdan, Business Development Director at Saab.

Easy, mobile and flexible

The deployable maintenance hangar is stored in containers. Once assembled, it provides the same functionality as a stationary maintenance workshop. The solution has a flexible design offering modular and scalable capabilities.

“It is the operational requirements that demand the type of capabilities needed during deployment. The unit can quickly begin operations on a small scale with a limited amount of materiel and then grow and gain more availability in function and endurance,” Christoffer explains.

The solution is designed to, within less than 48 hours, enable deployment at dispersed bases. Due to its versatile size, the hangar is able to house most available military fixed and rotary wing aircraft. At the other end, the system is designed to be assembled ten times or deployed for as long as three years without any significant maintenance required.

A workplace that is proven to save lives

Forward operating bases are vulnerable, therefore it is important to protect personnel, aircraft and equipment against any incoming threat. In order to protect aircraft and containers visually against advanced sensors, such as heat-seeking infrared and radar, a multispectral camouflage netting is an integrated part of the solution.

“It is a proven fact that multispectral camouflage protection saves lives in combat situations,” says Christoffer.

When protecting a nations sovereignty, assisting in disaster areas, participating in peace keeping missions or training defence capability, the ability to safely advance and regroup in the field and to be flexible in an often large, difficult and unknown territory, is core and very important.

“This mobility and flexibility can make the difference in saving lives. The Swedish Airforce has already utilized this concept during several missions as well as during joint international training,” says Christoffer.

During the international assignment Operation Unified Protector in Libya 2011 other participating nations were impressed by the significant maintenance capacity that the Swedish Air Force had at the forward operating base, while utilizing 30 percent less resources in terms of staff, support systems and spares than some of the other nations.

“Slightly less than one day after the Swedish government decided that Sweden would join Operation Unified Protector the first Swedish units landed on the NATO base Sigonella in Italy where the international assignment were operated from,” ends Christoffer.

The concept of enhanced deployable maintenance capacity has also been used during the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, hosting the Swedish Air Force’s UH60M Blackhawk MEDEVAC. In Congo 2010 during the United Nations peacekeeping force MONUC and also protecting the Gulf of Aden, hosting an AgustaWestland 109.