DLA Aviation sustains Air Force B-2 bomber, supports the Global War on Terrorism

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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On a chilly January day 2017, just days before President Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, two Air Force B-2 Spirit bombers took off from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, headed for a mission close to 6,000 miles away.

A little more than 30 hours and two mid-air refuelings later, the planes rained down thousands of pounds of bombs on a terrorist training camp in North Africa as part of the continuing Global War on Terrorism.

According to the Air Force fact sheet, the B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is the service’s multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. Its stealth characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses. The aircraft has demonstrated these highly technical capabilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and most recently, Libya.

Based at Whiteman, the B-2 entered the Air Force's operational fleet 25 years ago in 1993. That same year, Bill Clinton was the leader of the free world, the average price of a new home was $113,200, and to catch films like “The Fugitive,” “Philadelphia” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” would’ve cost you a little more than four dollars. Garth Brooks, Janet Jackson and Nirvana dominated the airwaves.

Defense Logistics Agency Aviation manages more than 52,621 national stock numbers in the B-2 supply chain, helping to ensure the B-2’s support of the U.S. Nuclear Triad, the system of delivery vehicles comprised of sea, land, and air deterrent capabilities  based on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

Retired DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch established the DLA Nuclear Enterprise Support Office under DLA Logistics Operations to position the agency to be fully responsive to the needs of the Air Force and Navy nuclear communities.

Felicia Barwell is the B-2 weapon system program manager in DLA Aviation’s Nuclear Enterprise Support Office, within its Customer Operations Directorate.

“We capture weapon system requirements, plan project initiatives, identify customer trends and recommend process improvements for DLA- managed items supporting the B-2 airframe, engine and support equipment,” she said.

Barwell said collaboration amongst the three original equipment manufacturers: Northrup Grumman, Boeing and Parker Hannifin is paramount for the sustainment and operational readiness of the B-2 fleet. Each of the OEMs has varying capabilities and responsibilities for the aircraft. 

“There are agreements, certain proprietary rights and responsibilities granted to the OEMs to manufacture certain parts. Northrup Grumman has configuration control management for the aircraft; however, the other OEMs may actually produce items. We are in constant communication with each OEM,” she said.

DLA Aviation established four initiatives as a road map for optimizing support for the Nuclear Enterprise internally and externally:

  • Improve Nuclear Enterprise Inventory Management and Investment

  • Enhance Long-Term Nuclear Enterprise Weapon System Sustainment

  • Sustain Partnerships for Future Investment

  • Codify DLA Support to the Nuclear Enterprise

That first initiative falls directly in line with DLA’s five strategic Lines of Efforts, specifically LOE 1: Warfighter First: Objective 1.1: Nuclear Enterprise. It states DLA will support the DoD Nuclear Enterprise to ensure deterrence forces remain safe, secure, reliable and ready. Our adversaries increasingly present a nuclear threat. We will continue to strengthen support to the Nuclear Enterprise. 

DLA Aviation has a Nuclear Enterprise Acquisition Team that works with Barwell and other nuclear component weapon system program managers to leverage supplier relations to develop and execute the best procurement strategy for pre- and post-awards.

But maintaining the Air Force Stealth Bomber has its challenges.

“Diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages is an ever looming challenge for the B-2.  Surplus parts are virtually impossible to locate and when they are, they must be traceable to a specific government contract and meet all certification requirements,” said Barwell.

The Department of Defense defines DMSMS as the loss or impending loss of resources of the last known manufacturer or supplier of raw material, production parts or repair parts and material needed to build, maintain and operate warfighting equipment. DMSMS could possibly endanger the life-cycle support and viability of the weapon system or equipment.

To work through these issues, Barwell said the Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, recently stood up the B-2 joint DMSMS Team. It provides material management leadership throughout the B-2 life cycle and develops a program plan which describes the enterprise management and communication process for B-2 obsolescence.

Barwell, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served a tour in Iraq, said her past military experience gives her a keen appreciation for the B-2 and warfighter readiness.

“This is an extension of my military service and the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, protect our national security and our right to freedom. This is more than just a ‘job,’ it is a life style,” she said.