In November 2017, the Peruvian Air Force (FAP, in Spanish) Electronics Service (SELEC, in Spanish) completed the second phase of development on the Center of Excellence in Electronic Diagnostics, responsible for detecting defects in electronic circuits and circuit boards used in multiple applications, such as avionics. In this phase the personnel got familiar with equipment, and performed diagnostics and repairs on various aeronautical components. SELEC seeks to regain, sustain, and increase the logistics capacity for electronics maintenance on its aerial platforms. Officials estimate the third phase will start in the first quarter of 2018.
“This next-generation center helped FAP make a technological leap in electronics,” FAP Lieutenant Colonel Siles Manuel Vidal Rojas, director of SELEC’s Offset Program for International Procurement, told Diálogo. “The diagnostic center places us among the top in our specialty [electronic circuit and circuit board diagnostics and repair] in Latin America.” The Peruvian Ministry of Defense’s Offset Program is an international trade agreement between partner nations for the purchase, sale, and transfer of defense technology, training, and materials.
The first phase of the project started with training Peruvian officers who learned procedures to repair equipment from various privately held U.S. companies. It ended with the arrival and activation of U.S.-made electronic diagnostics equipment at SELEC, at Las Palmas Air Base.
“It’s a project split into three phases. Currently, the center is in the process of designing the third phase,” Lt. Col. Vidal said. “The goal is to achieve the maximum degree of technological independence to allow us to extend the useful life cycle and service time of the electronic devices the Peruvian Air Force relies on,” FAP Colonel Armando Pomar, commander of SELEC, told Diálogo.
The center has next-generation technology capable of processing and updating the results of any functional testing done on electronic equipment. It allows for testing of electronic modules and circuit boards, among others, and has diagnostics tools to quickly detect and diagnose malfunctions. The center also provides reverse-engineered diagrams to test circuits that lack manuals and solve problems related to obsolescence or circuit reconstruction.
“FAP’s avionics systems were based on analog electronic devices from the 70s and 80s,” Col. Pomar said. “Since the advent of new air fleets with digital instruments, the need arises for maintenance capacity of such next-generation devices.”
“Over the course of a year [from July 2016 to November 2017], the Center of Excellence for Electronic Diagnostics worked on all types of aviation technology originating from the East as well as the West,” Col. Pomar said. The personnel adapted FAP’s weapons systems on its Tucano planes and managed to go operational with the U.S.-made TPS 70 radar system.
They also repaired the anti-missile system for the Peruvian Navy logistics support vessel ARL-158 Tacna, and contributed to the upgrade of the Peruvian Army’s combat radios. In addition, they repaired some electronic circuit boards for beds of the Intensive Care Unit of FAP’s Central Aeronautic Hospital. “The center also provides support to the biomedical, mining, and transport industries,” Lt. Col. Vidal added.
“The center helped lower repair costs and turnaround times for FAP aircraft. It can be about two months from the time we send electronic systems [to other countries] for repairs to come back to Peru,” Col. Pomar said. “Reducing turnaround times also enables our aircraft to remain operational throughout their missions,” Lt. Col. Vidal added.
“The diagnostics unit has become a powerful tool for cooperation among South American armed forces, where, through technical cooperation, we build bridges of friendship and technology exchanges,” Col. Pomar said. “Specialists from the Argentine, Bolivian, and Colombian Air Forces visited SELEC to learn about the work of FAP’s Offset Program.”
Development of phase three
To move further toward technological independence in electronics, FAP plans to establish maintenance centers with the same technology in provincial air bases. In the third phase, Arequipa, Iquitos, and Piura will have a system for real-time maintenance assistance in order to decentralize the workload at SELEC, which will be responsible for what provincial centers cannot repair.
The project will also be rolled out at FAP’s professional training centers. The Graduate Institute of Aviation Technology will train future specialists for the Center of Excellence in Electronic Diagnostics. The institute will have laboratories overseen by SELEC.
FAP works with a great number of applied sciences and is always at the forefront of new scientific developments. “We’re training so that in the near future we’ll have all the tools we need to provide technological support,” Lt. Col. Vidal said. “FAP and the high command see the Center of Excellence in Electronic Diagnostics as a solution to all the [technological] issues that we’ll face for at least the next 10 years,” Col. Pomar concluded.