WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, March 30, 2006 – Engineers from the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, working with the B-2 Systems Group and material processing experts, solved a critical material scale-up problem that directly affected the operational maintainability, and therefore combat availability, of the U.S. Air Force's B-2 bomber fleet.
Through this effort, alternate high frequency material configured aircraft have shown significantly lower maintenance man-hours per flight hour and have maintained a fly rate more than double the rest of the fleet.
To improve the B-2 fleet mission capability rate, a major effort was initiated by the B-2 System Group to remove tape covering access panel gaps and fasteners and replace it with a material called alternate high frequency material.
This material exposes the gaps and fasteners for easy removal and replacement of access panels without any material restoration required.
Successful flight tests demonstrated the effectiveness of the alternate high frequency material design, but upon material scale-up for fleet-wide implementation, consistent batch-to-batch performance could not be obtained.
Consequently, the fleet-wide alternate high frequency material implementation was postponed due to the high risk associated with the material performance.
With the threat of cancellation, experts from The Air Force Research Laboratory's Manufacturing Technology Division initiated a $2.8 million alternate high frequency material rapid response process improvement program within weeks to solve the B-2 System Group's primary maintainability problem.
This team rapidly identified alternate high frequency material manufacturing problems and implemented solutions.
The successful program gave the B-2 Systems Group and Air Combat Command the confidence to implement alternate high frequency material fleet-wide, both increasing mission capability rate and decreasing maintenance man-hours per flight-hour by 50 percent.
This program resulted in a significant increase in aircraft availability and cost savings.
In addition, the alternate high frequency material rapid response process improvement program developed and validated a repeatable manufacturing process that enabled material transition to the B-2 fleet.