Manufacturing Technology Program Reduces
By Plans and Programs Directorate, AFRL/XP
/ Published December 12, 2006
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The B-2 Systems Group initiated a major effort to improve the B-2 fleet mission capability (MC) rate. This effort involved the removal of the tape that covers access panel gaps and fasteners, followed by the replacement of the tape with a material known as alternate high-frequency material (AHFM).
AHFM exposes the gaps and fasteners, allowing easy removal and replacement of access panels without the requirement of material restoration. Successful flight tests demonstrated the AHFM design's effectiveness, but upon the material scale-up for fleetwide implementation, scientists could not obtain consistent batch-to-batch performance. Consequently, the high risk associated with the material's performance resulted in the postponement of the fleetwide AHFM implementation. With the threat of cancellation looming, AFRL experts quickly initiated a $2.8 million AHFM Rapid-Response Process Improvement (RRPI) program to solve the B-2 Systems Group's primary maintainability problem.
AFRL's Manufacturing Technology engineers worked with the B-2 Systems Group to solve the critical material scale-up problem, rapidly identifying AHFM manufacturing problems and implementing appropriate solutions.
The AHFM RRPI program enhanced the fleet's high-priority maintainability program and improved material delivery schedule and production costs. The AHFM RRPI program reduced the material production schedule from 26 weeks to 12 weeks and implemented an improved test method that saved 8 calendar days per batch. The program also enhanced risk mitigation, improved material durability, and reduced maintenance and material costs. Maintenance actions that previously required a week of aircraft downtime now require as little as 30 minutes.
The successful program gave the B-2 Systems Group and Air Combat Command the confidence to implement AHFM fleetwide, allowing a 50% increase in the MC rate and a 50% decrease in maintenance man-hours per flight hour. This program resulted in a significant increase in aircraft availability and cost savings. Other weapons system program offices have since expressed interest in this program.