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Without airworthy jets, the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy is just 80,000 tons of floating steel.

Kennedy’s Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department recently started using a new $87,000 oil filter debris analyzer that keeps one of its aircraft flying instead of being grounded for maintenance.

If the air wing flies missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on its current Middle East deployment, its four EA-6B Prowlers and their sophisticated electronics and anti-radar missiles might just be needed.

The onboard analyzer will cut about two weeks of down time for every 25 to 50 hours the aircraft fly, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kim Pilletere of the IM-2 division oil lab.

The new machine cleans the filter from one of the Prowler’s two J-52 engines, removing and analyzing metal fragments to determine wear on engine parts, specifically one of its main bearings.

Until the fragments are analyzed, the aircraft is grounded, said IM-2 division officer Lt. Vencent Logan.

Before the new gear arrived on May 26, the ship had to send the filters to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Now, the ship can complete the entire test in under an hour.

“The machine is working great,” said Logan. “It’s got a really short turnaround time.”

This is only one of four analyzers in the Navy.

The others are aboard USS John C. Stennis; at Pensacola and at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., which is home to the Navy’s entire Prowler fleet.

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