The efficacy and availability of America’s military platforms, fleets, and weapon systems is, without exaggeration, one of the most crucial components of global security today. We rely on these exquisite machines, heavily computerized and stuffed with operational technology (OT) systems, to enable warfighters with overmatching capabilities to deter our adversaries.

But as new generations of vehicles, aircraft, and ships roll off the assembly line and legacy systems age, they’re getting harder and costlier to maintain. Last December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that even though the DoD spends $90 billion a year on weapon system maintenance, the DoD is not where it needs to be. It noted that the Services are making only “limited” progress in implementing predictive maintenance, and upon examining 49 distinct aircraft, found that only four met their annual mission capable goal in a majority of the years from 2011 through 2021. Twenty-six of those aircraft did not meet their annual mission capable goal in any fiscal year.

In response, the GAO has made 16 recommendations for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, including the designation of a single entity with the authority and resources required to support the implementation of predictive maintenance; the development of a comprehensive implementation plan; and the measurement and reporting of performance evaluations/results.

To further validate the value of predictive maintenance, the GAO also noted the following concrete, positive impacts:

  • The Army avoided $24 million in costs related to CH-47 Chinook helicopters and realigned more than 6,200 maintenance hours to higher priorities.
  • The Marines lowered downtime for amphibious assault vehicles by 32 percent, and reduced maintenance hours for the vehicles by 69 percent.
  • The Navy adjusted maintenance intervals for H-1 main rotor gearboxes and other components to avoid $100 million in spending over a five-year period.

To further understand the obstacles to implementing predictive maintenance, MeriTalk, in partnership with Shift5, surveyed 300 operations, maintenance, and leaders from DoD, commercial air, and commercial rail organizations to explore the state of predictive maintenance and identify critical challenges to implementation and expansion. The results from DoD respondents found an astonishing 99% of officers and personnel responsible for these systems agreed that implementing predictive maintenance capabilities would directly improve operational readiness, with nearly a third saying such capabilities would improve mission capable rates by more than 40 percent.

In addition, DoD leaders expected a 35% increase in their department’s mission capable rate from the implementation of predictive maintenance, and 98% of overall DoD respondents anticipated an increase in the department’s mission capable rate from the implementation of predictive maintenance. Of those, 44% anticipate an increase between 21-40%.

One of the biggest obstacles identified by study participants is a lack of observability of their onboard data – inability to access raw data, put that data into context, and derive analysis or insight. Operators and maintainers can’t take care of their equipment and take appropriate action if they’re locked out of knowing what’s truly happening in the cockpit or under the hood. Commanders can’t make decisions to improve operational readiness if they don’t have detailed context, analysis and insights, and trends across the entire fleet.

At Shift5, we’re helping our DoD customers do just that. Our onboard observability platform provides full-take data capture, streaming telemetry integration or post-mission data collection, and real-time analysis on the edge or in the cloud, to boost operational readiness and enable achievement of predictive maintenance goals. We believe in our core that organizations need “full picture” observability of data across the total landscape of relevant components instead of a select few. They must visualize the entire network through all OT data communications and platform components.

With a complete and enriched data set, operators, maintainers, and commanders can identify a historical baseline of optimum performance and detect digital anomalies that may signal a compromise from either operational failure or a cybersecurity attack.

The Shift5 platform allows warfighters and their support communities to monitor, identify, repair, and defend OT networks that rely on legacy, commercial, and proprietary serial bus protocols. As soon as a problem is identified, the platform delivers critical alerts about system communications problems and failures. This context-rich, data-driven awareness provides actionable evidence for maintenance teams so they can avoid loss of operational capability and protect the safety, security and survivability of their platforms and systems.

We look forward to continuing our work with the DoD to maximize the value of OT data through observability. Learn more how we enable predictive maintenance to support operational readiness.