USAF Creating Worldwide Logistics Network to Manage Materiel

Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski told ASC17 attendees on Sept. 18 AFMC is working to create a global logistics command and control network. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

From sorting through and reinvigorating boneyard components to networking command and control logistics centers worldwide, USAF is digging into every corner of its infrastructure in search of an affordable, efficient, and innovative future.

Speaking at ASC17, Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said every dollar the service spends on fixing aircraft inefficiently or ineffectively is “one less dollar we have to fix the next one.” And the service is getting serious about tightening its belt while maintaining and improving its infrastructure.

“We no longer have boneyards,” Pawlikowsky said. “Davis-Monthan [AFB, Ariz.] is no longer a boneyard. It is a national airpower reserve.” The aircraft there are sealed now and their critical components have been removed for safer storage. When needed, the Air Force will dip into the reserve. A B-52, for example, once part of the boneyard, was pulled out and rebuilt last year at the behest of a commander, she said. This was feasible because of the growing amount of materiel communication and tracking that is now possible.

“The depot you see today includes things like software integration laboratories because no longer are the computers in one place and the aircraft in another place,” she said. “We need teams that understand both aspects of it.”

Pawlikowski said one could find “thousands of engineers” at any of the services three Air Logistics Centers “writing software code, working side-by-side with the aircraft that’s going to use that software.”

“It’s a different environment,” she said.

The Defense Logistics Agency is another example of innovative approaches to materiel preservation, as it works side-by-side with the supply chain operations wing “to get to know where the parts are, to get the parts around the world, wherever they are needed.” Collaboration of this sort minimizes transportation loops, increasing efficiency, she said.

All of this information culminates when it enters the hands of those developing USAF’s additive manufacturing—also known as 3-D printing. A low-bearing handle on the C-5 is $1,600, just for the part, which is “no longer available.” DLA can’t even predict when they’d have it ready because it needs to be reverse-engineered, Pawlikowski said in citing an example of the need to develop the additive manufacturing universe. USAF sent the part to an innovation center and, “in less than three weeks,” they took the part, designed it for additive manufacturing, and produced it “for $300.”

From information to production, from sharing knowledge to manufacturing efficiently, the future of materiel in the Air Force is largely going to be borne of networking the logistics command and control worldwide—an effort currently in the works.

“This capability will be absolutely central for us to be able to link the different capabilities, the people, and the different assets so that we can provide the rapid capability our commanders need,” Pawlikowski said. “The world’s greatest logistics for the world’s greatest Air Force” will come from the collaboration of civilian, airmen, and industry, she concluded.