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Hydraulic Fluid Purification could soon be a DoD-wide program

  • Published
  • By Laura McGowan
  • 88th Air Base Wing
The Air Force is constantly looking for ways to support its war-fighting mission in a way that is cost effective and environmentally friendly while still providing maximum efficiency. Don Streeter, Environmental Engineer, Air Force Plant #4, USAF HFP P2 Project, has been a driving force to bring this concept to fruition.

"I discovered HFP at a DoD Spring Environmental Conference in Denver, Co., in late March 1999," he said. "One of the approved purifier vendors had a presentation on how they could save the Department of Defense millions of dollars in fluid replacement and disposal costs if HFP was made an accepted practice."

He explained how the process has been allowed since June 2004, but was not made mandatory by the Air Force until April 2010, when the HFP was first incorporated into AFI 21-101, Aircraft and Equipment Maintenance Management, Paragraph 14.7. Before then it was purely optional.

When asked what this program means for the Air Force, he said, "Putting it in the regulation means that each accepted maintenance organization can now put the requirement for purification equipment into their Table of Allowances, allowing them the budget [to] purchase the equipment."

"The approval of the process will mean that less hydraulic fluid will need to be procured and transported to the field of operations," he said. "Less fluid will need to be disposed of from the field of operations, and lastly, fluid leakage and component failure rates can be drastically reduced due to cleaner fluid in the hydraulic systems."

Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center is currently purchasing stand-alone purifiers and hydraulic test stands with a purifier installed on it. It's projected that the Air Force, on aircraft only, would use/dispose of between 50-80 percent less hydraulic fluid. The AF would not have to be concerned with changing the fluid except in extreme cases where it was contaminated by something the purifier could not remove.

Hugh Darsey, F-15 mechanical engineer, WR-ALC, said, "Contaminated hydraulic fluid negatively affects a weapons system in many different ways, both functionally and economically. A pilot may complain of poor aircraft response, crew chiefs will be performing extra actuator changes, and overall it costs the Air Force more money."

"By utilizing hydraulic fluid purification, we can remove over 75 percent of the air, reduce the water level down to below 100 parts per million and filter out solid particulates [significantly]," he said. "These improvements can result in decreased maintenance, reduced fluid procurements and disposal costs, improved aircraft availability and most importantly increased flight safety."

Darsey said, "All of these benefits will result in an estimated $30 million dollar per year savings on the F-15 fleet alone."

Currently, the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., is one of the first bases to be operational in using the HFP system on its F-15Es. What does HFP mean for the AF? Streeter said, "An attempt to obtain funding for the entire Air Force for basic purifiers in 2009, a Business Case Analysis was performed on just the F-15 program, and they anticipated [more than] $352 million in basic maintenance savings over the next 20 years on that program alone."

Streeter said, "Our Pollution Prevention Home Office, here, won the 2010 DoD Environmental Excellence in Acquisition Team Award partly due to the HFP efforts on the F-15 program." Since that time he regularly fields calls from different bases, looking to begin the process of utilizing the HFP system on their aircraft.

"We have proven that the HFP process works in a cost effective way to minimize hydraulic fluid usage, minimize hazardous waste disposal needs, reduce deployment foot print and sharply reduce hydraulic maintenance and associated costs," he said.