Fixing before failure: inside smart military maintenance

Todd Stiefler talks to Strategic Defence Intelligence

Having aircraft and vehicles out of action costs the military dearly, both financially and in terms of availability, not to mention failing to identify a potential breakdown could lead to equipment breaking down mid-mission, risking the lives of personnel. Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) are now a well-established method of adding intelligence to the maintenance process, using sensors to track the behaviour of different parts and raising an alert if it reaches a critical point –a threshold helicopter engine temperature, for example.

However, once that critical point is reached, that helicopter has to be taken out of use immediately and repaired out of its normal service schedule. Ideally, a system could spot that the outage is likely to happen days or weeks in advance, so maintainers could focus their resources on preventative action during scheduled services rather than checking systems that are not broken or likely to break.

General Electric (GE) believes its SmartSignal tool, which has already proven successful in the gas, energy, civil aviation and mining industries, could offer the military community just that ability.

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