In April 2019, a DynCorp International (DI) team from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station program traveled to Ingalls Field in Hot Springs, Virginia, to test the Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasure (DAIRCM) system in AH-1Z and MH-60S aircraft.
The objective of the detachment was to evaluate the DAIRCM, an improved missile countermeasure system, to determine if the system’s performance was ready for the next phase of testing and fielding. In addition to DI maintenance, the detachment team consisted of about 30 people from NAVAIR, Atlantic Test Range and the Center for Countermeasures, among others.
Ingalls Field is an excellent airfield to test with very little traffic on the tip-top of a mountain with terrain sharply dropping off into valleys to the east and west. A challenge that comes with testing on the top of a mountain where field elevation is 3,790 feet, however, is the weather. During the April detachment, the weather varied from 75 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny to driving rain and dense fog with temps barely climbing out of the 40’s.
Of course, the day when the MH-60 was due for a full round of torque checks the team was battling heavy rain and visibility down to 100 feet. Although major maintenance was completed on the aircraft prior to detachment, subsequent torque checks on every fastener and driveshaft coupling from the main transmission to the intermediate gearbox were required. This covers a lot of bolts, most of which are very difficult to access, requiring the DI maintainers to contort on top and sometimes inside the aircraft.
“Maintenance like this is no small task in the dry hangar back home at Patuxent River,” said Charlie Grogan, DynAviation Navy lead. “Yet our maintenance team executed on the flight line, on the top of a mountain, in the driving elements.”
While the rest of the detachment planned the next flight events or analyzed data from the comforts of the hotel, the DI team worked for a full day in the driving rain. Through dedication, skill and resolve, the team got the job done and returned the aircraft to an up status for test execution the next day. The weather cleared, the MH-60 flew, and the detachment team was able to successfully collect and deliver the needed data to bring a more capable system to the fleet.
“The magnitude of the work performed by the DI maintenance personnel in the elements and the attitude with which they met their task stands out as a highlight of our time on the mountain,” said a U.S. Navy lieutenant from the detachment.