The last two months have been both an exciting and intense time for the men and women at the Eurofighter System Support Centre (SSC) in Manching.
Germany’s Air Force, the Luftwaffe, embarked on a lighthouse deployment to the Asia-Pacific region which included six Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. These aircraft deployed from their home base in Neuburg via Abu Dhabi and Singapore to Darwin, Australia, which they called their temporary home in order to represent Germany in the Australian-led military exercises Pitch Black and Kakadu 2022.
The SSC or SUZ, which in German stands for System-Unterstützungs-Zentrum, is a cooperation of Airbus Defence and Space and the Bundeswehr, the country’s armed forces.
Since 2003, the SUZ has been an instrumental element in ensuring operational availability and readiness of the German air force fleet. The cooperation between industry and customer has proven to be a full success story over the years.
© German Air Force
The SUZ basically stands on two main pillars – the operational systems support on a daily basis and the second being the constant, long-term improvement of the Eurofighter weapons system.
During the last two months, the SUZ was put on test as the joint teams supported Rapid Pacific 2022, the code name for Germany’s largest ever deployment to the Asia-Pacific region.
“We were involved in the campaign planning of Rapid Pacific since the beginning of the year. It is a lot of preparation that goes into such an operation and ultimately we had some 25 team members on call for that. That included night shifts in order to secure the ability to support the deployed troops via our user help desk”, Siegfried Engel, an Airbus employee and Head of Operational System Support & Engineering Qualification at SUZ, said.
The campaign planning also included providing early advice to the Luftwaffe on which aircraft to select for the deployment and to examine the type of environment and missions the jets would fly in. “Based on that we composed our teams so that it would allow us to provide the best level of support once the operation was underway”, Engel said
During Operation Rapid Pacific, that high reactivity and joint cooperation between the Luftwaffe and Airbus proved very efficient numerous times, said Bundeswehr LtCol. Mario S., military co-head of the joint team in Manching with Siegfried Engel.
© German Air Force
“Due to the fact that we have a high level of expertise in the integrated teams and a joint toolset such as the occurrence database, we were also able to clear findings promptly, which is key for the aircraft to resume flying operations”, LtCol. S. added.
On one occasion, during the initial deployment to Singapore from Neuburg, the teams of Luftwaffe and SUZ had to get the iconic “Air Ambassador” jet airborne after it encountered a hydraulic system issue.
The clock was ticking because the German Air Force had challenged themselves to deploy from Neuburg to Australia in less than 24 hours. Hence it was the goal to get the Air Ambassador jet to its destination as quickly as possible, recalls German Air Force Captain Robin N.
Capt. Robin N. is a systems engineer for the Eurofighter at the 74th Fighter Wing, which deployed to Darwin as the lead German Air Force wing.
On a daily basis, Capt. N.’s team supports the maintenance crews with technical expertise and works on the standardisation, harmonization as well as the improvement of processes, not least since the Eurofighter itself is constantly receiving upgrades.
“When it comes to harmonizing, standardising and improving processes, our aim is always to try to get things done in-house first. That’s our priority and ambition”, said Capt. Robin N. “The documentation in the SUZ database is like a Wikipedia for Eurofighter really. Of course this database provides an amazing amount of additional expertise which helps us to find solutions. We certainly appreciate this asset as well as the ability to ask for SUZ expertise if and where needed.”
In fact, he said, a lot of systems engineering know-how was required to get the “Air Ambassador” airborne from Abu Dhabi.
While the air ambassador was still undergoing further examinations in Abu Dhabi, Capt. Robin N. supported the five other aircraft that had just landed in Singapore and, together with the SUZ, supported the work of his comrades along with a repair squad to get the Air Ambassador airworthy again. After checking the ASTECS database, Capt. Robin N. was on the phone with the SUZ team members to share his preliminary assessment.
Based on that evaluation, the SUZ team analysed and quickly confirmed Capt. N.’s assessment within two hours. This step allowed the teams in Abu Dhabi to commence tests on the aircraft and eventually to fix the issue.
Overall, the cooperation between industry and customer via the SUZ proved – even if much was only behind the scenes – to be a powerful force provider for the Eurofighter fleet to ensure mission success for the Rapid Pacific 2022 campaign.
After completion of their deployment down-under, the 6 Eurofighters together with their A330MRTT and A400M support aircraft redeployed to Singapore in late September. From there, three jets – led by German Air Chief Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz – embarked on another “first”: an 8-hour flight to Japan, the first-ever visit of German Eurofighters there. Two days later, these jets returned to Singapore where the entire contingent finalized preparations for the return to Germany. Stormy weather delayed the departure of all aircraft from Singapore for three days, but the waiting time was used to prepare maintenance activities together with the SUZ after completion of the deployment back to Neuburg.
Finally, after 40,000km, 700 flight hours and over 500 inflight refuelings all six Eurofighter aircraft safely arrived in Neuburg on 8 October 2022, successfully concluding Operation Rapid Pacific 2022. In a remarkable manner, the Luftwaffe together with its partners of NATO’s A330 MMU Tanker unit underlined its capability to deploy globally. In doing so, the Luftwaffe was able 24/7 to count on a reliable, capable partner with the SUZ Eurofighter in Manching to assist with any required technical expertise anytime.