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Transforming Army Oil Analysis
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Transforming Army Oil Analysis

All of us are aware that the Army is constantly changing. The main catalyst for this change is the rapidly evolving technology 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.

AOAP History

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 through oil analysis. The Army recognized that oil analysis could be a valuable maintenance diagnostic tool, so it opened its first oil analysis 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 change 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 generator end item components) added in 1979.

AOAP Today

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).

AOAP Transformation

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.

Collaborative Alliance

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 and software.
• 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 safety.

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.

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.



Transforming Army Oil Analysis
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