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MALS-11 puts newest capability to work

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

MALS-11 puts newest capability to work

2 Apr 2014 | Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 11 held a ribbon cutting ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 28.

The inauguration event for the F/A-18 APG-73 Radar System Integrated Test Bench marked the first time the Marine Corps has gained this repair capability from Raytheon-Space and Airborne Systems. Avionics Marines introduced their newest radar repair capability to the Col. Rick Uribe, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 11 commanding officer, and other distinguished guests.

The ITB performs system checks on radar equipment used by our fixed-wing fighters during flight. The radar system is crucial to the aircraft weapon systems and the aircraft cannot fly without it.

“Our Navy counterparts have been using this repair capability for several years, and it has significantly improved the reliability of their APG-73 radar systems and the associated costs with extending the life expectancy of this weapons system,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Abraham Menchaca, assistant avionics officer with MALS-11.
Before gaining this technology, setting up the old repair system to test one piece of radar equipment could take several hours. Even then, the system would leave out crucial testing of certain parts that could take several more hours to find.
“Our current test equipment assumes that wiring, connecters and paths in the equipment are good, meaning that it wouldn’t test them,” said Capt. Odon Garcia, avionics officer with MALS-11. “If you have a short somewhere, a bad chasse, faulty flex print or what have you, it would be hit or miss on catching it.”

According to Menchaca, the test bench acts as if it were the aircraft, allowing more efficient testing, shorter test times and quicker turnaround times to get the parts back to the squadrons.
“The amount of time it took, the effort and more importantly the time the jet wasn’t capable of flight [was] just too long,” said Uribe. “Now, we can test the assets and get them back to the jets quicker. Our end goal is to support the war-fighter on the ground, kicking in the door, and we can’t do that if our assets are tied up due to long, complicated maintenance.”
From March 3 to March 28, the squadron saved more than $2,775,000 since receiving it in December.
One of the best parts for the squadron, Uribe explained, is not only the faster and improved equipment capabilities, but that the squadron can also fall back on knowledge from the men and women working for the machine’s creator, Raytheon.
Mark Munninger, information and intelligence services Raytheon engineer with MALS-11, bridges the gap between Marines and Sailors working with the bench and the company, fielding questions and providing training as well.
“Mark is genuinely excited to be here, doing his part to help his brothers and sisters,” said Uribe. “He’s a former MALS-11 Marine who now works for Raytheon, and now he has the opportunity and the drive to share his knowledge and training with us. He’s going above and beyond to provide the training he does.”
The squadron hopes to provide more assistance to the flying fighters by fixing their radar equipment faster and by keeping funds flowing where they are needed.