Tobyhanna Army Depot is DOD’s center of excellence for electronics

Nov. 1, 2005
Technicians at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in northeastern Pennsylvania have a unique perspective on military electronics equipment.

By John Keller

TOBYHANNA, Pa. - Technicians at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in northeastern Pennsylvania have a unique perspective on military electronics equipment. They should. They probably see more of it than any other organization in the world.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pa., is the largest electronics facility in the world, depot officials say. Its experts handle maintenance, repair, and overhaul of Army, Navy, and Air Force equipment for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, better known as C4ISR.

Not only does the depot handle repair and overhaul of all U.S. Army radios, circuit cards, radar systems, computers, satellite equipment, optoelectronic sensors, and many other pieces of electronics, but it also services Air Force ground-based communications and air traffic control systems, as well as Air Force and Navy Sidewinder and Maverick guided missiles.

A Tobyhanna technician adjusts a component of the AN/TPS-75 Radar System, which Tobyhanna overhauls and tests for the U.S. Air Force. The “Tipsy 75” is a mobile, tactical radar system capable of providing radar azimuth, range, height and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) information.
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“We have shifted from an Army-centric depot to a true joint depot for communications and electronics,” explains Army Col. Tracy Ellis, Tobyhanna’s commanding officer.

To date the Army’s Firefinder radar system, which detects and tracks enemy mortar and artillery shells, is Tobyhanna’s largest job. Firefinder, which has seen broad use in Iraq and Afghanistan, is undergoing upgrades and technology insertion at the depot.

Tobyhanna technicians are in a particularly good position to judge the effectiveness of modern electronics that operate in harsh environmental conditions like the Middle East. They see virtually all the military electronic systems coming back for repair and refurbishment from Iraq and Afghanistan.

This experience also puts them in a strong position to make necessary changes to electronic equipment to help it better cope with environmental extremes in the field.

A Tobyhanna Army Depot technician repairs the transmitter component of an AN/ALQ-144 infrared jamming system (in foreground). A team of depot technicians spent a month at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, assessing equipment as part of the Army’s ongoing reset program.
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Tobyhanna experts are redesigning the filtering and cooling system for the AN/ALQ-144 active infrared countermeasures set that protects Army helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from heat-seeking missiles.

The system was not coping well with the talcum-powder-like dust in the Middle East, and was sustaining damage and shortened operating life. Tobyhanna experts are improving the filtering system to handle the fine dust, and are redesigning the system’s air circulation to compensate for the different filters.

Because of the increased tempo of military operations since 9/11, and because of recent rounds of the Base Realignment and Closure program, Tobyhanna’s activity has doubled in the past three years, Ellis says.

In 2005 the depot will perform more than 6 million man-hours of activity, and will do about $600 million in business for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). “This is the largest that Tobyhanna has ever been. We are in hiring mode now,” says Ronald Cappellini, Tobyhanna’s director of business management.

In addition to repairing, refurbishing, and upgrading DOD systems, Tobyhanna is a certified warrantee repair facility for Panasonic, Dell, Micron, FPC, Sun, and Itronix electronic equipment.

Assigned to the depot, which is part of U.S. Army Materiel Command, are 3,520 civilian government employees, 576 industry contractors, and about 20 uniformed military personnel. “We have more electronics engineers and technicians than any other DOD facility,” Cappellini says. “We do more depot maintenance of electronic equipment than all other military depots combined.”

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