|Transforming Army Oil Analysis
|by Captain Daniel A. Jensen
All of us are aware
that the Army is constantly changing. The main catalyst for
this change is the rapidly evolving
exploding across our society today—technology that the
Army must continue to exploit as it transforms to the Future
Force. The Army Oil Analysis Program (AOAP) is not exempt from
the changes being fostered by new technologies.AOAP is a technology-based
maintenance tool that provides diagnostic services to the Army
and the other armed services worldwide.
AOAP must capitalize on evolving technology so it can continue
to enhance Army maintenance capabilities, reduce the burden on
the soldier, and provide better diagnostics and prognostics in
the future. Logisticians should be familiar with AOAP—how
the program started, how it functions, and where Army Transformation
will take it.
The Army has been a leader in instituting proactive maintenance
by monitoring oil lubricants for indications of contaminants.
Ironically, AOAP began in 1961 after several defective Army
helicopter transmissions were detected by a Navy laboratory
analysis. The Army recognized that oil analysis could be a
valuable maintenance diagnostic tool, so it opened its first
laboratory at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in September 1961 to provide
support to its expanding aeronautical fleet. On the laboratory’s
first day of operation, a defective aircraft engine was identified
through spectrometric wear metal analysis. That was the beginning
of what was to become known as the Army Oil Analysis Program.
Between 1961 and 1975, oil analysis was used exclusively to
monitor aeronautical components. Then, in early 1975, a significant
took place when AOAP’s capabilities
were expanded to include ground combat equipment. The program’s
expansion to ground equipment meant that AOAP also would need
to perform analytical tests capable of determining lubricant
condition. In 1977, tactical and wheeled vehicles were added
to AOAP’s workload, with other Army systems (such as
locomotive, construction, materials-handling, support, and
item components) added in 1979.
|An oil sample is taken from a UH–60
Black Hawk helicopter for analysis.
The Department of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4,
is the proponent for the oil analysis program, with the Army
Materiel Command (AMC) G–3 acting as the designated responsible
agent. The AMC G–3 delegates responsibility for plans,
policies, and technical advice and assistance to the AMC Logistics
Support Activity (LOGSA) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The Army
Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), as commodity manager
of petroleum systems, is responsible for funding and sustainment
of AOAP-unique laboratory equipment.
Guidelines for wear-metal criteria are based on Department of
Defense- and Joint Oil Analysis Program-approved formulas for
testing spectrometric and physical properties (such as the presence
of contaminants). The AOAP laboratories make recommendations
to customer units based on the results of this testing. Currently,
over 34 aeronautical
systems and components and 472 ground systems and components
are enrolled in AOAP. These enrolled systems are monitored by
25 AOAP laboratories (23 fixed facilities and 2 mobile labs)
and joint laboratories worldwide.
The labs analyze over 1.1 million samples per year, recommending
services and maintenance actions to be performed as needed. This
translates into cost savings totaling millions of dollars annually
in equipment maintenance, replacement of internal oil-wetted
components, and labor and materials costs associated with the
acquisition, transportation, handling, storage, and hazardous-materials
disposal of waste byproducts (oil and filters).
LOGSA currently is working on the initial tenets of an AOAP restructure
and overhaul plan. The need for reshaping AOAP’s program
management was first highlighted in 1997, when the Chief of Staff
of the Army directed the Army G–4 to review the aeronautical
and nonaeronautical components enrolled in AOAP, streamline support
to the field, and incorporate affordable new technology. Based
on this directive, the LOGSA AOAP Program Manager (PM) developed
a Restructure Concept Plan that was approved by the Army G–4
in February 2002.
The restructure plan proposes to reduce the maintenance burden
on soldiers, reduce funding requirements, and improve AOAP as
an analytical maintenance diagnostics tool by—
• Reducing the number of systems and components enrolled in the program.
• Reducing the frequency of sampling.
• Reducing the number of laboratories performing analyses.
• Leveraging technology in order to develop and
install inline and onboard sensors and develop the potential of portable handheld
screening devices in the future.
• Refining and using AOAP-generated data to identify design changes and
improve sustainment actions in the emerging Future Logistics Enterprise. This
would be accomplished by collecting, aggregating, and analyzing data obtained
through the Global Combat Support System-Army, Logistics Modernization Program,
and Logistics Integrated Data Base.
One of the key components in the AOAP restructure and overhaul plan is a collaborative
alliance among LOGSA, TACOM, and the Tank-automotive and Armaments Research,
Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC). This alliance will establish a
tighter link to the petroleum and lubricants business area and the research and
development community. The ultimate goal of the alliance is to develop and execute
a plan that will eliminate the need for regularly scheduled oil sampling for
analysis by AOAP.
To facilitate this process, TARDEC is working on an approved Army Science and
Technology Objective (STO) effort to develop onboard oil condition monitoring
sensors for engine lubricants, transmission oils, and hydraulic fluids. The STO
will be broken down into sequential phases—
• Investigate fundamental technologies.
• Test selected technologies and investigate methods to integrate hardware
• Select the most promising technologies and
assemble prototypes for engine-stand testing.
• Select the best technical approach for initial prototype field testing.
TARDEC has evaluated several sensors to date and is pursuing additional sensors
for testing potential technologies, including microwave, nanoelectromechanical,
magnetic-electric induction, conductivity, dielectric constant, spectroscopy,
and microviscometer. The AOAP PM has formed a collaborative
alliance with the Army Aviation and Missile Command’s engineering components,
the Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center, and the
Program Executive Office Aviation to improve oil-and-grease analysis support
as one of several maintenance diagnostic tools for increasing readiness and flight
AOAP continues to be a vital maintenance diagnostic tool. The program historically
has increased operational readiness, enhanced flight safety, reduced catastrophic
failures and maintenance efforts, and saved the Army millions of dollars annually
through oil analysis monitoring. AOAP will provide an even greater service by
optimizing its valued capabilities through restructuring and through capitalizing,
leveraging, and exploiting evolving technology. ALOG
Captain Daniel A. Jensen is an Emergency Operations Center shift leader at the
Army Materiel Command Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA) at Redstone Arsenal,
Alabama. He has
a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University of Minnesota
and is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses.
The author thanks Daniel T. McElroy, a supervisory logistics management specialist
at LOGSA, and Geoffrey B. Embrey, the Acting Deputy to the Commander of LOGSA,
for their contributions to this article.