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Research Questions

  1. What options does the U.S. Navy have to help manage and modernize its aviation maintenance activity?
  2. What are the costs and risks associated with these alternatives?
  3. Can the Navy meet its schedule goals?
  4. What is commercial aviation using for aviation maintenance software, and what are the commercial airlines' roadmaps for the future?
  5. How can the Navy best position itself in the acquisition to retain flexibility in vendors and avoid vendor lock-in?

The U.S. Navy's aviation maintenance capability suffers from supportability issues because of its antiquated software architecture and codebase. This report presents the results of an analysis of alternatives for fielding the Naval Aviation Maintenance System (NAMS), which is intended to help modernize the Navy's afloat and ashore maintenance capabilities.

The Navy identified several key attributes and 269 high-level requirements for NAMS to meet the demands of the current and future aviation logistics enterprise. The RAND research team used this guidance to evaluate seven alternatives in terms of effectiveness (capability and quality), cost, risk, and schedule. The primary sources of data used for these analyses were industry and government responses to a request for information, follow-up discussions with selected industry and government experts, interviews with stakeholders, a literature review, and study guidance and the study problem statement provided by the research sponsor.

Broadly speaking, the alternatives studied included maintaining the status quo, a commercial off-the-shelf solution, a government off-the-shelf solution, and a hybrid alternative combining a commercial off-the-shelf solution with the Naval Depot Maintenance System. The authors find that a commercial off-the-shelf solution is the best option.

All alternatives have challenges in meeting schedule goals. If the Navy wants to meet schedule objectives, it will likely have to give up goals to make near-term gains in readiness derived from analytics. Beneficial analytics depend on clean and accurate historical data on maintenance actions and aircraft configurations, and it is unclear to what extent current data are accurate.

Key Findings

  • A commercial off-the-shelf solution offers the best chance for capability gain, the best potential to meet schedule demands, modest cost savings with the right recurring license contract, and limited scope of migration. Specifically, the best option is a commercial off-the-shelf solution using enterprise systems active in defense aviation or using systems that do not necessarily perform aviation maintenance but whose processes align with maintenance concepts.
  • The Navy should consider increasing the budget to improve the odds that NAMS can improve readiness more quickly. The added cost to extract and clean historical data may be an additional $200 million over 16 years, which is a reasonable trade-off for a system that supports so many aircraft.
  • If the Navy does not increase its efforts to clean historical data up front, its ability to improve readiness and reduce demands on its workforce will be hindered.
  • The biggest risk to operations is that NAMS is insufficiently backward compatible with the Naval Aviation Logistics Command Management Information System. The biggest risks to cost are overspecification of requirements, infeasible solutions, excessive configuration or customization, and a lack of authority to authorize business process changes. The biggest risks to schedule are overspecification of requirements, infeasible solutions, excessive configuration or customization, inaccuracy in as-maintained ship configurations, and limited ship availability.
  • None of the alternatives is expected to meet the goal for full deployment. All the alternatives exhibit a large degree of schedule uncertainty.
  • All the alternatives are expected to meet initial operational capability within the threshold range.


  • Pursue a commercial off-the-shelf migration with a focus on prototyping Alternatives 3 and 4. Alternative 3 options are preferred because they pose less risk to unclear business process definitions and have lower overall risk.
  • Study data quality and implement improvement plans, where necessary, for targeted type, model, or series to improve future analytical outcomes. This approach includes increasing spending to clean historical data to better enable analytics that improve aircraft availability.
  • Acquire a separate interface layer through commercial application programming interface management, government off-the-shelf enterprise service bus, domestic technology transfer plan, or Naval Operational Supply System acquisition; make vendors work through this layer.
  • Simplify maintenance processes as much as possible to increase the rate of adoption into commercial off-the-shelf business processes.
  • Make every possible effort to adjust to ship availability, which poses a large schedule risk.
  • Actively negotiate terms for recurring software maintenance fees before the downselect.
  • Ensure that authorized personnel are available after the post–other transaction authority downselect to authorize changes to the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program or execute other policies and processes as required.
  • Closely manage the interface between the Naval Operational Supply System and NAMS to ensure forward compatibility.
  • Study and quantify the potential gain from an improved maintenance process in terms of aircraft readiness.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Navy and conducted within the Navy and Marine Forces Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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