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Akaer Group revitalizes the P-3AM Orion with 21st century technology

The P-3AM aircraft is vital for the surveillance of Brazil’s exclusive economic area, which may reach 4.5 million km²; Akaer’s revitalization project began at the end of 2018

An aircraft designed in the 50s is gaining a n extra  life to carry out its surveillance missions in Brazilian blue waters. The Akaer Group is responsible for revitalizing the P-3AM Orion, providing the best cost-effective solution for the Brazilian Air Force (BAF).

Brazil has a 7,367 km long coastline with a unique geography. The Exclusive Economic Zone – EEZ is a strip located beyond the territorial waters, over which each coastal country has the exclusive rights to explore the natural resources of the sea, both living and non-living, and has the responsibility in its environmental management. The EEZ extended  up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Considering the length of our coast, the Brazilian EEZ is 3,500,000 km² in area, which is the exclusive property of the country. If we also consider the Continental Platform with 911,000 km², our EEZ is close to 4.5 million km². Virtually the same area as our legal Amazon. If this immensity of water to be monitored and controlled was not enough, the international areas of responsibility for Rescue Operations (SAR – Search and Rescue), committed to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), amount to about 10 million km².

This task is constitutionally the responsibility of the Brazilian Navy, which has the full support of the Brazilian Air Force (BAF) surveillance and reconnaissance squadron, which until 2010 had in its inventory only the P-95 (EMB-111, Bandeirantes or Bandeirulha) aircraft dedicated to maritime patrol.

However, on December 3, 2010, the game began to change. On that day, the FAB commenced  receiving the first P-3AM Orion aircraft, a complete paradigm shift.

The first P-3AM Orion aircraft was presented at a ceremony in Madrid, Spain, with the presence of the then Minister of Defense, Nelson Jobim, and the then Commander of the Air Force, Lieutenant Brigadier of Air Juniti Saito.

The P-3 Orion is an aircraft with unique characteristics to carry out the various missions of maritime surveillance and denial of sea use. The profile of most maritime patrol missions requires flight at low altitude and at low speed. This profile favors propelled aircraft, since under these conditions they consume less fuel. Save fuel to stay in flight for much longer. Unlike the jets, which are more economical at high altitude and also at high cruising speed, when compared with turboprop aircraft. In addition to benefiting from the intrinsic characteristics of a turboprop, the P-3 goes further, with its four engines, when at the mission station, this aircraft still allows the shutdown of one or two engines to reduce consumption and stay longer on the mission or go further. The Orion P3, derived from a commercial version the Lockheed L-188 Electra, can stay in flight for up to 16 hours at low altitude and at speeds compatible for launching sonoboards or a SAR kit. These capabilities are unbeatable when carrying out anti-submarine warfare missions or a search and rescue mission.
That is the reason that makes this aircraft the best seller in its category. Between 1961 and 1990 more than 750 units were produced, and in 2012 he joined the restricted aircraft club with over fifty years of continuous service with the same user, in this case the North American Navy.

Nine (9) aircraft were modernized, new sensors and systems were installed, making the P-3AM compatible with the operational needs of the FAB. According to the Combat Aircraft Program Coordinating Committee (CAPCC), the Brazilian P-3AM ORION are powerful vectors in line with the guidelines established in the National Defense Strategy, since they substantially increase Brazil’s capacity in the search for protect national interests.

THE AKAER REVITALIZATION PROJECT

The Akaer revitalization project started in late 2018, when company teams participated in training at an American company, a partner of the project. The first sets of wings are being revitalized at Akaer’s modern facilities, located in the company’s industrial complex in São José dos Campos (SP). Disassembly and assembly will be carried out at the BAF Galeão Aeronautical Material Park, in Rio de Janeiro (RJ).

The revitalization will extend the life of the aircraft. To do this, Akaer will replace several primary wing elements such as upper coatings, front and rear stringers, upper and lower panels of the central wing / fuselage coffins, among other actions. This project will prevent the interruption of the use of this aircraft in the fundamental fulfillment of protecting our coast due to the exhaustion of its life in fatigue, and which will extend its useful life for years.

Akaer also brings a different approach to that normally brought by OEM’s and / or isolated equipment suppliers. In the case of Akaer, the solutions adopted are focused on engineering analyzes that, at first, allow the revitalization and / or extension of the operational life of existing solutions, with a minimum of intervention.

HIGH TECHNOLOGY

Akaer has technological innovation as an integral part of everyday life and, in the case of revitalizing the wings of the P-3, it could not be different. From the first moment, the project was also seen as a platform to integrate concepts and tools from Industry 4.0: the digital twin, advanced manufacturing, systems integration, among others.

Even before starting to install the tools and materials in the hangar, a series of layout studies were conducted in search of an optimal distribution of workstations that could maximize the added value of the product, reducing if waste.

Recently, a new revision of this study was carried out with the objective of enabling the work of two pairs of wings in parallel, in addition to reducing displacements and improving the benches and shelves for storing materials in the production process.

In short, the entire factory layout was designed, analyzed and validated in a virtual environment before it became physical. And, more: the analysis and validation were made using virtual reality resources – which allows a better perception of the layout.

Following the same approach of critically analyzing the information received, there is also innovation in terms of manufacturing scripts. The service bulletin to be applied to the wings comprises more than 1500 work instructions making the handling of information and documentation an significant challenge.

To this end, a technological solution was developed capable of organizing the manufacturing routes in correlated groups and which allows a better visibility of the general status of the process (improving the decision-making process). This solution is called Alternative Routes, precisely because it allows different “paths” to be taken to execute the service bulletin, in addition to ensuring greater transparency of the information in each route.

The first prototype was developed for a sample of 150 scripts and was successfully validated. At the moment, the solution is overflowing for the entire universe of more than 1,500 routes.

And the innovations applied and developed in the P-3 do not stop there. All of these manufacturing roadmaps were built from digitalized images of drawings from the 1950s (period of development of the airplane) and organized in a reliable and unique database in the PLM (Product Lifecycle Management or Manager Environment of Product). And yet: all routes can be consumed through mobile devices, such as tablets, directly on the production line. That is, even if the drawings are old, the digital treatment provided allows for a paperless project and with reliability that all operators and engineers have access to the same database.

In the near future, we will address another capacity that will be implemented in the execution of activities. In addition to the drawings, it will be possible to access three-dimensional information from the manufacturing scripts, being an even more interactive tool and ensuring greater added value to the operation.

An augmented reality solution is in the process of concept development to allow operations and production information to be made in real time, using the structure itself as an image platform.

Akaer Group, contributing to the maintenance of sovereignty in our seas.