NEWS | Oct. 29, 2020

Tobyhanna supports global surveillance programs through partnership with industry

By Ms. Danielle E. Weinschenk

Tobyhanna Army Depot has been named the depot source of repair (DSOR) for the Persistent Surveillance Systems – Tethered (PSS-T), a key piece of surveillance equipment used across the Department of Defense (DoD).

The workload will be executed through a public-private partnership (P3) with Tethered Communications of Maryland (TCOM) and Product Director (PD) Aerostat, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The PSS-T enables Soldiers to gather constant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data by using an aerostat – an enormous balloon that uses buoyant gas to hover at low altitudes. The balloon is tethered to a large trailer and is accompanied by a shelterized control room, which allows Soldiers to review and disseminate footage from the PSS-T’s electro-optical/infrared camera systems. PSS-T payloads are used to detect, identify, and track developing situations, improving situational awareness for Soldiers. Because the PSS-T is more efficient to operate than other ISR systems, it is in high demand by multiple DoD branches, including US Customs and Border Protection.

“The PSS-T supports emerging multi-domain operations needs through its unique abilities,” said Benjamin Herring, the depot’s PSS-T project manager.

Tobyhanna has supported a wide range of sustainment logistics needs for the PSS-T since 2016. The recent DSOR designation means Tobyhanna is now responsible for full-scale repair, overhaul and logistics of multiple versions of the gigantic asset. Those involved say the project is a cross-functional team effort.

“While the C4ISR directorate serves as the central hub for the program, asset components are refinished by Systems Integration and Support, moved by Production Management, evaluated by Production Engineering and our partners through the P3 help manage the supply chain. As they say, ‘it takes a village”, said Nancy Telesco, an electronics mechanic leader in the Ground Sensors Branch. “I am so appreciative of our support team for helping us with this huge undertaking.”  Jamie Shotto, an electronics mechanic in the branch, agreed.

“PD Aerostat and TCOM are excellent partners. I can confidently say this partnership is a win for us all.”

While the P3 itself represents a novel approach to depot maintenance, this particular effort is truly remarkable according to Tracy Kraftchisin. Kraftchisin works in the Production Management Directorate’s Sustainment Planning Division.

“The main representative for PD Aerostat, Richard Nicholls, worked at Tobyhanna before joining PD Aerostat. He has a deep understanding of our operations and is extremely qualified to help us address the logistical challenges of supporting this new workload. Our partnership through the P3 is so successful that it has been recognized as a DoD best practice.”

With a system as large and complex as the PSS-T, personnel say effective coordination and training are key. In order to prepare for the system’s arrival, eight Tobyhanna employees received comprehensive on-the-job training from the system’s original equipment manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. This proactive approach allowed the production floor team to hit the ground running when PSS-Ts arrived at Tobyhanna. It also enabled TCOM and PD Aerostat to gain insight on potential roadblocks well in advance of production. Hearing from depot employees that the supply chain can often be a challenge, TCOM chose to locate its warehouses near Scranton, ensuring a rapid turnaround for parts requests. Production floor personnel applauded this approach, noting how it streamlined the troubleshooting process.

According to Herring, the depot is renovating multiple work spaces to accommodate the PSS-Ts huge footprint, including a large tower that will allow significant range camera testing. He says the program will bring a wide variety of work to the organization.

“Between the facility upgrades, engineering requirements and process improvement initiatives, many members of Team Tobyhanna will be supporting this important workload today, tomorrow and into the future. Because it provides critical intelligence, a system like the PSS-T is always operating. As a result, there are certainly opportunities for even more workload associated with this partnership.”

Tobyhanna is scheduled to overhaul two large and two medium PSS-Ts in fiscal year 2021.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for C5ISR systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 4,000 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.