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Suggestion is real dust buster: employees' idea cleans up patriot component.

Tobyhanna army depot, Pa. -- Three electronics mechanics here devised a solution to a problem that was causing dust and debris to enter parts of the Patriot Missile System.

Charlotte Ache, Henry Eggert and Michael Verrastro, who work in the depot's Surveillance Systems Directorate, perform mechanical checks on the Patriot Missile's Identification Friend or Foe systems, which are overhauled and repaired here.

They realized that there were inadequate air filters on the signal processor, which was allowing unwanted particles to go through the system, causing equipment failures.

They submitted a suggestion through the Army Ideas for Excellence Program to add filter material and will share a monetary award of $2,700.

The award was approved at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command level, based on the highly significant, intangible improvement to the value of a product, said Bob Reese (Scranton), the depot's AIEP coordinator.

"As the Patriot systems are returned from the field and come through Tobyhanna for repair, we continually noticed that excessive sand was clogging the filtering system of the signal processor," Ache explained. "Our suggestion reduced equipment failures and drastically cut maintenance time."

The signal processor controls the IFF functions for the Patriot system. It is housed within a side panel of the system and uses the cooling fans of the radar.

Prior to suggestion implementation, it was not adequately protected from environmental hazards, such as sand and dust.

"Contamination related to environmental conditions was being inducted into the signal processor, resulting in pitting and malfunctioning of the internal components," Verrastro added. "When the Patriot Missile System was deployed to South West Asia last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the problem increased because of desert conditions.

"Our suggestion added another layer of air filtering material to the existing RF filter. We secure it to the frame of the air supply with Velcro strips."

"We chose Velcro because it is easily accessible to soldiers in the field, as well as easy to handle," Ache added. "It can be removed easily to clean or replace the filters."

Additionally, the longevity of the unit in the field is now 10 times greater regarding sand intrusion, Verrastro said. "Our contact with the warfighters in the field verifies this."

The use of this air filter has reduced manhours required to clean and repair the signal processor, in addition to reducing equipment failures, according to the suggestion evaluation prepared by Edward Seamans, an electrical engineer at CECOM who granted approval of the idea.

The suggestion was implemented by CECOM only three weeks after it was submitted because of the urgency to ensure the Patriot's operations were not further affected.

Also, the suggestion was included in the December issue of The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, a maintenance guidance publication for Soldiers.

Ms. Yeager is assistant editor with the Tobyhanna Army Depot Public Affairs Office.
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Author:Yeager, Michele
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:470
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