Air Force ingenuity saves $2.75 Million

The acquisition of a commercially available computer processing unit and some in-house technical know-how has saved Air Force $2.75 million.

As an important part of the ADF’s surveillance and response capability, the E-7A Wedgetail platform is brimming with state-of-the-art electronics which collect, process and display surveillance data. The savings were identified during a routine spare parts acquisition for the aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Matthew Gibbons, of the Airborne Early Warning and Control System Program Office (AEWCSPO), said AEWCSPO received a quote for 190 computer processing units and, based on the size of the quote, initiated a trade study to investigate alternate solutions. “The prime contractor, Boeing Defence Australia, in conjunction with AEWCSPO, identified an equivalent Commercial-Off-The-Shelf item at a significantly reduced cost, however, the units required modification to make them more durable in an airborne environment,” FLTLT Gibbons said. “The so-called ‘ruggedisation process’ involved vibration dampening processes and spraying the circuit board with a conformal coating to prevent the ingress of dust and moisture.” AEWCSPO approached staff at the No 81 Wing Combined Workshops, formed primarily to support the Hornets, to investigate undertaking the modification in-house.

The officer in charge of No 81 Wing’s Combined Workshops, FLTLT David King, said the unit’s leadership supported the activity. “Boeing, as the contracted authorised economic operator, developed the work procedure in collaboration with No 81 Wing’s subject matter experts and No 2 Squadron provided technicians to perform the modification,” FLTLT King said, adding “while there were some early failures, the modified computer processing units have since proved to be at least equivalent to the original equipment manufacturer’s product.”

FLTLT Gibbons said assembly modification was achieved by four tradespeople in about 12 weeks and at a cost of $150,000 for time and materials, bringing the total cost for 250 computer processing units to $500,000, saving about $2.75 million when compared with the original equipment manufacturer’s product. “In addition to the financial savings, technicians gained an enhanced understanding of the computer processing units functionality and are now able to perform advanced fault-finding to ensure that only genuinely unserviceable items are inducted into the repair pipeline,” FLTLT Gibbons said.

Surveillance and Response Group Program Manager Wing Commander Peter Eversten said the Defence Materiel Organisation, Boeing, No 2 Squadron and No 81 Wing were able to undertake a modification project that provided significant financial savings. “Defence has clearly demonstrated that it is still a smart and technically competent customer capable of insourcing engineering and maintenance when required,” Wing Commander Eversten said.

Source / author: RAAF