FRCSW Revamps Super Hornet Windscreen Production

A project in the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) canopy shop that began in June 2017 to address occurrences of delamination in some windscreens of F/A-18 Super Hornets has come to an end.

Components production manager Jakob Grant said that fleet back orders for the windscreens had reached about 40 last year prompting FRCSW artisans and engineers to apply their expertise and ingenuity to craft a solution.

“Working together with the sheet metal artisans in the canopy shop, the machinists, painters, and the evaluation and examination teams, engineering embedded itself into the paint and sheet metal shops and worked side-by-side with them to develop local engineering specifications (LES) to measure the coating that is used on the windscreens and to streamline the process,” Grant said.

To improve the paint process, materials engineers determined the requirements for measuring the density and thickness of the low-observable coatings that are applied to the windscreens.

An initial LES for the repair and replacement of the transparencies (the actual glass which is made of polycarbonate and acrylic plastics) was also developed.

“The coating process in the painting area was our main development and deviation from our regular procedure, and because of the additional requirement to measure the density and thickness of the coating, it went from a 13-day process to averaging a 26-day process in paint,” Grant said.

“This also caused some of the backlog because it was taking us twice as long to meet the engineering requirements which had become more stringent, and to still meet fleet requirements.”

Nevertheless, team efforts enabled the canopy shop to produce 31 windscreens during the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. The shop is on track to produce the same amount for the second quarter.

“For three months we worked to streamline procedures, and in early October, we were able to meet fleet demands of 10 windscreens per month. During that time, we had to work with engineering under temporary instructions to get those 30 windscreens done,” Grant noted.

Windscreens are turned in from the fleet as repairable units. Upon induction they are cleaned and prepared for disassembly by the shop’s artisans in Building 250.

“We remove the fasteners and sand and prime the windscreens,” said sheet metal mechanic Loc Yu. “Afterward, the windscreen is placed in the fixture where we install new glass and seal the seams. All of this takes about five days. Then it moves to paint in Building 472 before being reissued to the fleet.”

Canopy shop work leader Eugene Ellis noted that the shop uses continuous process improvement measures on windscreens and Hornet canopies.

“We have a single piece flow system that results in less waste of materials and sealant, and fewer defects. In turn, this increases our production quality and results in less rework. Our ultimate goal is to extend the service life of the windscreens and improve production to the fleet,” he said.

FRCSW is the only naval facility that refurbishes Super Hornet windscreens.

Sheet metal mechanic Pierre Nguyen removes fasteners from an F/A-18 Super Hornet windscreen. Fastener removal is one step of the disassembly phase which includes removal of the windscreen’s glass.