Looking In-House For Maintenance Support

By Amy Butler
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

The second was the Lockheed Martin F-22, the costly twin-engine, stealthy fighter. Air Force officials did not cite a cost figure associated with anticipated savings for F-22 sustainment changes. But, the Air Force is beginning this year to bypass Lockheed Martin to directly contract with Pratt for airframe-mounted nozzle sidewalls. And, plans are underway to begin contracting directly with Northrop Grumman to activate a radar repair capability at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Ga., the service's central location for electronics systems. The radar work will be established there once funding is available, according to officials in the Fighter/Bomber Directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Perhaps the most challenging shift for the Air Force has been with support of the growing Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft fleet made by General Atomics. Three years ago, the Air Force was told by company officials that if it wanted to buy technical data to support in-house work, “You can buy the company” (AW&ST May 17, 2010, p. 25). Despite challenging talks with the company, Predator overseers are pursuing a strategy that incorporates some in-house supply-chain and maintenance management. Service officials declined to provide specifics, but they say they are in the process of implementing the plan.

Finally, the Air Force is planning to stand up in-house support for the new Boeing KC-46 tanker in 2017 as the first 18 refuelers are fielded, a departure from a tradition of relying on CLS early in a fleet's life. The Air Force hopes to conduct the first “C Checks” at its Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center as early as 2018. However, it will maintain five, one-year options for interim contractor support in the event help is needed by Boeing. “The program office does not envision long-term CLS for this weapon system,” directorate officials say.

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