August 2021 | Content by LtCol Luc Cornille, BEL AF

FLEP is Here!

Before we all get a little bit too excited by the title, let’s explain what this means. As we approach two years since NAPMA signed the Final Lifetime Extension Programme (FLEP) contract with Boeing, physical work has finally begun to prepare Geilenkirchen Air Base to receive the new capabilities that FLEP will deliver. Unlike previous major modernisation programmes, much of the development and testing work associated with FLEP will be accomplished at Geilenkirchen AB vice being done at Boeing’s facilities in the USA. One of the first, and critically important, steps toward making this happen will be the conversion of the current Mission Simulator 2 (MS2) into a new FLEP System Integration Laboratory (SIL). This work recently began with the start of MS2 de-modification.

© 2021 - NAPMA

The new SIL will support compliance testing of new FLEP hardware and software requirements and, in the future, will be used for sustainment activities such as troubleshooting and testing of further upgrades.

The FLEP SIL will look like a clone of the mission system of a modified NE-3A with racks, servers, communication equipment and consoles. In addition, Ground Systems such as the Ground Entry Point (GEP), Mission Planning and Debriefing System (MPDS) and Deployable MPDS (DMPDS) will be installed in the SIL. Simulation systems and tools will also be part of the SIL in order to provide inputs to the new systems during testing.

In April 2021, Force personnel mostly from MSEC will prepare the MS2 facility in Building 216 for installation of the new SIL. Once that’s completed, a contractor called Jacobs, working on behalf of Boeing, will start building up the new FLEP SIL. During the de-modification phase, MSEC personnel will secure power breakers, measure flows of cooling air, close air ducts, test all equipment before its removal, remove some equipment while leaving some wiring in place and perform all corresponding logistical actions. An occasional visit from the infamous Mr Murphy led to some undocumented and unforeseen challenges, but the MSEC-led team remains on track to complete de-modification by the end of October 2021. To complicate matters, the team performs all of these activities while ensuring that the Mission Simulator 1 and the Radar Simulator capability currently attached to MS2 remain operational.

When de-modification is completed, and before Jacobs can begin work on installing the new FLEP SIL, a long list of equipment and software must be provided to Boeing as NATO Furnished Equipment (NFE). This includes the installation of changes to the facility’s power system required to support the new FLEP equipment. Only after NAPMA delivers the NFE can Jacobs begin building up the new SIL upon the ashes of the de-modified MS2.

The picture is taken during DeMod: the “old” consoles in the back are still in place but the consoles in the front have already been removed and only the console base remains in place for the new consoles.
Today, the room looks much more empty!
© 2021 - NAPMA

So, what’s the timeline? In early November 2021, Boeing and Jacobs will perform a site survey to confirm that MS2 de-modification has been successfully completed. In mid-November 2021, NAPMA will conduct a SIL technical review followed by the shipment of new SIL equipment to Geilenkirchen Air Base. Conversion of MS2 into a FLEP SIL is currently scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2022 and, during the second half of 2022, NAPMA will validated the SIL and obtain the security approvals required to fire it up an begin testing. If everything goes as planned, and Mr Murphy doesn’t rear his ugly head again, the SIL will be ready to support FLEP development and test activities in early 2023 conducted by the FLEP Combined Test Team (CTT). The CTT is a still-to-be-formed organization comprised of NAPMA, NAEW&C Force and contractor personnel that will conduct all FLEP ground and flight testing. These personnel will cut their teeth in the new SIL before the first FLEP-modified NE-3A arrives at Geilenkirchen AB.

So, FLEP isn’t quite here yet, is it? No, but important work has begun and, before you know it, you’ll see the first modified aircraft on the ramp. In the meantime, you can at least see what the new mission system will look like when the new FLEP SIL stands up in early 2023.

All rights are reserved to NAPMA - NATO AEW&C Programme Management Agency | NAPMA Website - Terms Of Use