RICHMOND, Virginia –
Defense Logistics Agency Aviation is helping the Air Force maintain its aging bomber fleet by working with industry to develop sources capable of producing fuel-cooling components, known as ram-air scoops, for the B-1 Lancer fleet.
Led by the activity’s Forging and Casting Assistance Team, the two-year effort also reduced the cost of the parts and saved the agency more than $220,000.
The AFCAT took on the challenge in April 2012 when DLA Logistics Operations’ Research and Development Division asked the team to investigate problems with contracts for the bomber’s left- and right-hand scoops.
“The parts had been on contract between 2008 and 2010, but all suppliers failed to deliver, causing the parts’ supply posture to be in trouble,” said Keith Sturgill, AFCAT application engineer.
B-1 program managers relied on repairs to keep the scoops operable. When they began to crack about seven years ago, the Air Force started using a welding process to perform limited repairs, said Tim Condon, DLA Aviation’s program manager for the B-1.
However, recent engineering assessments determined that the scoops, which hadn’t been replaced since the aircraft was fielded in the mid-1980s, needed to be replaced fleet wide.
The AFCAT searched for tooling used in early fiscal 2000 to create the parts, but previous suppliers said it was scrapped or lost due to non-use. Future suppliers would therefore have to recreate tooling needed to cast the parts, so DLA and Air Force officials reviewed the technical data package with the original equipment manufacturers to ensure the part’s drawings and specifications were up-to-date.
With help from DLA Aviation’s weapons systems program manager and Air Force officials, the AFCAT began searching for capable casting sources in February 2013. It was a challenge because the number of companies capable and willing to do such difficult work was limited, said Steve Connor, who served as the AFCAT program manager from October 2013 to March 2015. It’s also an expensive endeavor for suppliers, so DLA Aviation’s acquisition specialists incentivized bidders by structuring the contract to allow upfront payments for tooling that would help them quickly recover costs.
“The risk factor in terms of capital investments to produce these parts often discourages industry from supporting [our] requirements,” Connor said. “In these contracts, DLA had the ability to fund the tooling and subsequently retain ownership of the high-dollar equipment.”
The AFCAT’s efforts resulted in the creation of two capable, Air Force-approved sources, only one of which bid on the contract. That vendor is currently building the tooling and is expected to submit the first part for inspection to ensure it meets technical specifications and testing by Air Force engineers in September 2016.
In addition to developing sources capable of producing the castings, the team negotiated with the new contractor for prices that are significantly lower than those of the previous contractors that failed to deliver. The left-side scoop dropped from $17,000 to $12,000 each, saving more than $186,000; and the cost of the right-side scoop went from $14,000 to $12,000 each, saving $35,800. To date, the project’s total savings is more than $220,000.
Connor said the project is a shining example of how DLA Aviation and industry can work together to support the military’s aging platforms. Team members also agreed that collaboration, personal diligence, dedication and determination to “get it right” for the warfighter were major factors that made the project successful.
“The team’s diligent and tireless efforts are what got these contracts accomplished,” Connor added. “The degree of confidence is high in the fact that we have viable sources [that] are going to deliver on the parts.”