Aerospace Engineering Spectrum

F-16 Flexible Sustainment (Falcon Flex)

Total Quality Systems, a business division of AES and a leading provider of engineering services to the DoD and commercial industry, was selected by the F-16 Supply Chain Manager to devise a process to reduce F-16 maintenance costs while not degrading reliability or performance. This led to the creation of the "Falcon Flex" program that has facilitated substantial cost savings by employing techniques such as Performance Based Acquisition (PBA). TQS has also assisted in reducing awaiting parts (AWPs), mission incapable (MICAP), and diminishing manufacturing source (DMS) issues and problems.

Flexible Sustainment (FS) is a process that encourages the Program Manager (PM) to use performance-based specifications and to develop innovative, cost-effective, lifecycle solutions.

In the past, the approach to support military systems relied on centralized depots. That approach proved effective for the majority of military programs for the last thirty years. During that time the military had often taken the lead in Research and Development (R&D) of new systems and technologies. Many commercial companies got their start through the development of key technologies (transistors, radio, radar, aviation, and space exploration), that were funded by organizations such as ARPA, NASA, Man Tech, and the National Laboratories. The support structure was required to be in-place for as long as the military had a need for the system, which proved very beneficial for the development of commercial systems, which could rely on spare parts, system improvements, and the general infrastructure, without paying for the development of such systems.

The demand for advanced commercial systems has currently surpassed the capacity of the military R&D houses and the commercial marketplace is replacing the military with internal R&D investments, teaming with universities or foreign governments. Many of the firms which supplied the basic components to the military, having found their profit margins restricted and new programs dwindling, have decided to refocus their markets into commercial endeavors and away from military systems. Military programs must now learn to adapt and follow commercial systems and commercial R&D investments. The processes identified within Flexible Sustainment provide the ability for current military systems to be supported for their lifecycles without the expense of the military developmental investments.

Supportability analyses, including comparison of commercial and organic cost-effective capability, should be conducted as an integral part of the systems engineering process. As DoD's role continues to shift from that of being a technology producer to being a technology consumer, program managers are likely to rely more on commercial products to meet the users' requirements. This requires Program Managers to ensure application of a rigorous system engineering process that incorporates open systems concepts and principles. It ensures delivery of systems that more readily accommodate commercial products whose design is not controlled by DoD and whose lifetimes are much shorter and more volatile than the systems they support.

This effort needs to begin at program initiation and continue throughout program development (design for support). FS introduces two follow-on processes:

Reliability Based Logistics (RBL), which suggests that increasing the inherent reliability of a system can result in significant reduction of the maintenance support structure. RBL is intended to assist the program managers in developing the best "design for support" solution.
Trigger Based Asset Management (TBAM), which recommends assessment of fielded systems trends and a re-examination of the maintenance plan when "triggers" (such as changes in reliability or maintainability trends, a change in technology, or diminishing resources) are detected. TBAM is a cost-effective tool to enable the team to "support the design".

In addition to RBL and TBAM, other innovative support solutions, such as procurement of Form-Fit-Function-Interface (F3I) spares, performance warranties, and obsolescence assessment are recommended as cost-effective support alternatives.

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