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Mobile Horizontal Sustainment Capability

Since 2003, MEC has served as Lockheed Martin’s Managing Partner for Alternate Mission Equipment (AME) associated with the F-35 Program. In addition to MEC, five international partners are producing pylons, launchers and weapons bay adapters for the aircraft. Since the F-35 will likely serve for several decades, thought is already being directed to the “long tail” of sustainment, which also will account for the majority of the “total cost of ownership” of the aircraft for its operators.

MEC realized that an opportunity existed to create a self-contained, mobile maintenance and repair solution which could provide operators with the ability to service the F-35 armament, down to the Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) level, which while falling short of true “depot” level repair, would enable a fairly sophisticated MRO capability. Furthermore, the CARD concept can be integrated with Lockheed Martin’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) to support spares requirements and other repair needs.

While the initial focus of CARD’s development was in support of the F-35 Program, it was quickly recognized that the solution could potentially support multiple fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft types, and even be adapted, with the proper partnerships, to support other aircraft systems, ground vehicles, and even in support of maritime platforms.

About the Customer

The initial customers for the CARD system are Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force.

The Challenges

To create an efficient, portable solution, MEC realized that the form and function would be critical. The decision was made to adapt standard 40-foot long ISO shipping containers which would be custom-engineered to fit together to contain all of the tools, manuals, supplies and other materials and equipment necessary to provide MRO services to support one or more specific platforms.

Generally speaking, 2 to 3 ISO containers are used to create a fully self-sustaining solution, which includes power generation and environmental (i.e. HVAC) controls.  Since these containers are standardized across global logistics chains, they are readily transportable by a variety of aircraft, trucks and ships, with a familiar and well-understood form factor.

The Solution

CARD is based on the premise of taking a standardized ISO shipping container and configuring it with custom engineering to support the MRO mission. This includes installing custom cabinets, lighting, special tools and more. Typically, the layout will consist of 2 or 3 ISO containers which are joined together with special seals to create weatherproof shelters/work units.

An important note is that for customers who do not require the actual use of the ISO containers (for example, they have dedicated building space set aside for MRO activities or have no interest in deploying in more austere circumstances), the equipment and other materials provisioned within CARD can be readily removed if the operator chooses to do so.


MEC completed its initial showcase prototype CARD unit in 2015, which was built using the company’s IRAD (Independent Research and Development) funds to create a working “proof-of-concept.” Subsequently, the CARD concept was shared with Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), the five international AME partners, and military personnel from several foreign nations which will be operating the F-35 to educate them on this unique sustainment solution. Commitments have already been made from Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force, and additional sales are expected not just in support of the F-35, but other legacy aircraft as well.

CARD is intended to serve as a highly adaptable sustainment solution which can be customized to support a variety of platforms and operational requirements. While the initial focus is on aircraft and associated Alternate Mission Equipment (AME) and Aircraft Armament Equipment (AAE) such as pylons, launchers and ejector racks, the concept itself for a self-sustaining, mobile solution is virtually unlimited.

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