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Mission: Keep the F/A-18 Hornet Flying

Age combined with excessive flight hours had put much of a legendary Naval aircraft fleet on the ground. The US Navy needed a better way to keep their older and overworked F/A-18 jets properly maintained and on the job. Realization’s Smart Project Delivery helped the Navy dramatically improve efficiency and keep the jets flying.

Half of the Navy’s best fighter jets were on the ground

From Operation Desert Storm, to Bosnia, Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the F/A-18 Hornet had consistently broken all tactical aircraft records for reliability and maintainability. By 2015, the US Navy had begun to overuse the multi-mission strike-fighter.

An increased global demand for aircraft carriers turned into excessive flight hours for the F/A-18. And soon afterward, the Navy had to ground fifty percent of the fighter jets for maintenance issues. “When we opened up the aircraft, we found corrosion and too much engineering work to be done,” said Navy Rear Admiral Michael Manazir. “We had pushed the jets well past the 6,000 flight-hour service limit.” With delays in the delivery of the F-35, (scheduled to replace the F/A-18 in 2020) there was a urgent need to increase the pace of maintenance and repairs. The clock was ticking, and for Navy leadership the stakes were high.

Leaving the old ways behind

The Navy realized a monthly planning and review process couldn’t handle the constant changes that define aircraft maintenance repair and operations (MRO). Rear Admiral Manaziralso knew that archaic labor-intensive planning tools and spread sheets would only make their scheduling problems worse.

To meet their fleet availability goals, the Navy turned to Realization. The company’s SMART Project Delivery system would provide their teams ready-to-act information. That meant all departments could focus on the right tasks and on solving the right problems. It would help to keep all project schedules synchronized with each other. They could make better use of the capacity they had. So crews, materials, equipment—everything needed to complete a given task—would arrive together in the right place.

Like many aircraft MRO, 80% of the approximately 25,000 hours of total effort per aircraft could be planned — the remaining 20% would be known only after the aircraft were opened.

Ideally, the Navy could take on all this extra work without changing the fly-out date of the aircraft. However, the maintenance depots were constantly negotiating new fly-out dates, creating gaps in fleet availability. Because SMART Project Delivery meant better use of existing capacity and better synchronization, the Navy could accommodate extra work without changing due dates.

Ready-to-act information: Taking on the right tasks at the right time

Although built on theoretical averages, the actual plan was constantly in flux, including the number and hours needed of specialized mechanics, workload on back shops, engineers and procurement.

“Changing all these schedules—for aircraft lines, back shops, engineers and procurement and keeping them synchronized within and across aircraft is humanly impossible,” said Realization CEO Sanjeev Gupta. He said, “Not only did the SMART Project Delivery System help make sure that crews applied the right resources to the right tasks at the right time, it also shifted management’s focus. They moved from backward looking reports to forward-looking delay and bottleneck alerts.” All of which helped the Navy see which issues created the biggest impacts on delivery.Even the supply chain benefited.

With greater visibility into the process, vendors were now working to synchronize schedules and real need-dates. As vendors worked more in tandem with the needs of the aircraft lines, material delays were reduced, and work was completed with fewer stoppages.

A 40% improvement

Realization’s analysis showed that by solving the scheduling problem, maintenance teams in the depot could increase production by 25% or more and reduce aircraft turnaround times by 50% or more. It took the depots about four months to set the plan in motion and start seeing improved performance. “We’ve been using Realization and SMART Project Delivery for a year and have already increased the depot throughput by 40 percent,” RADM Manazir reported to US House of Representatives Armed Service Committee in late 2015. “We expect to get even greater than that to where we have delivered somewhere along the lines of 30 airplanes from the depot a year ago; in fact, we’re looking to deliver 104 airplanes a year from now.”

Realization is proud to have helped the Navy and over 350 other organizations around the world. In addition to the US Navy, we’ve helped more than 25 aircraft MRO’s finish their projects faster and increase project completion rates. All have achieved results as impressive as the mighty F/A-18.


Our Client
  • United States Navy
Client challenges
  • Declining throughput
  • Frustrating bottlenecks
  • Maintenance inefficiencies
Our work
  • Balanced resources across projects
  • Sped up project completion
  • Reduced a culture of finger-pointing
  • Forecasted potential bottlenecks
  • Optimized how resources were used
The results
  • Grew engineering and support capacity to maintain 30 aircraft per year up from 21.
  • Reduced WIP from 36 aircraft to 17 aircraft.
  • Increased annual throughput by 81% (from 6 aircraft to 11).
Do you want results like these?
Let our team show you the SMART way.