In a bizarre development the US Air Force forgot to make parts of its own bomber and is now planning to reverse engineer the component of its B-2 Spirit bomber fleet. In order to achieve this, the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office is looking for a highly advanced 3-D scanning system. But it was reported that even such systems are no longer in production.
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A surprising requirement of reverse engineering the components of the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber was put on the contracting website of the U.S. government.
A national security analyst, named Mark Thompson, has brought this notice to the attention. The U.S. government is looking forward to reverse engineering the key components of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
Raise your hand if you remember when “reverse engineering” was how the Chinese stole U.S. technology. Looks like the U.S. now has to do it on itself—on a $2.4 billion bomber. Maybe we didn’t get the blueprints from Northrop?https://t.co/2UWDLKEXe6 pic.twitter.com/wHiDZx3Loq— Mark Thompson (@MarkThompson_DC) March 1, 2021
The Load Heat Exchangers of B-2 need to be reverse engineered. But there are several other simple and complicated components linked to these heat exchangers.
The notice states:
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“This engineering effort is to reverse engineer the core of the B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers, develop disassembly process to remove defective cores, develop a stacking, vacuum brazing, and welding process to manufacture new heat exchanger cores and to develop a welding process to install the new cores on existing B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers.”
“The requirement includes reverse-engineering the re‐core process for the B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers. The B‐2 Load Heat Exchanger (NSN 1660‐01‐350‐8209FW) uses air and Ethylene Glycol Water (EGW) liquid to produce cold air for the cooling system.”
“The deliverables will include all technical data related to the heat exchanger disassembly, all technical data related to the cores, all technical data related to the stack up, vacuum brazing, and installation of the cores on existing units.”
“The deliverables will also include all technical data related to the tooling needed for disassembly, core stack up, core vacuum brazing, post braze processing, core installation.”
“Two (2) government B‐2 Sink Heat Exchangers will be provided as government-furnished property (GFP) to prototype this effort. The two (2) prototype units will be delivered at the completion of the contract to return the GFP.”
“The final design shall meet the testing qualifications specified in the government technical orders (TO). Finally, a qualified source of repair shall be provided that is capable of remanufacturing the B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers per the aforementioned deliverables.”
Looking at the second paragraph, it is quite evident that a significant reverse engineering effort will be required. It will involve intensive technology, analysis, research and large scale production effort.
The reason behind implementation of this approach of reverse engineering could be the lack of support for these components or them being outdated.
B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are highly suitable for serious combat. The U.S. government wants to maintain the B-2 fleet. All they need is a general overhauling and applying radar-absorbing material and paint job. All these jobs are done by automated machines to ensure perfection.
In order to achieve this, the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office is looking for a highly advanced 3-D scanning system. But it was reported that such systems are no longer in production.
In case of B-2s the scanning system would have been helpful in preparing a virtual model of the original parts by scanning them. These virtual models can be used to design the blueprints for the production of advanced heat exchangers required for the sustainment of B-2 fleet.
The 402nd Electronic Maintenance Group Reverse Engineering Avionics Redesign and Manufacturing team, or REARM, was found at Warner Robins Air Logistic Complex (ALC) at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia for similar initiatives. Its role is to ensure spare parts supply for older weapons systems.
“The first part of reverse engineering is to do an obsolescence study,” Damon Brown, 402nd EMXG REARM chief explained in an Air Force press release.
“If we cannot get or find the parts to fix a piece of equipment or replace it, then we go back to the customer or the supply chain with this item and ask them what they want us to do.”
Working on behalf of the Air Force Sustainment Center, similar REARM teams are also found at Oklahoma City ALC at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and at Ogden ALC at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, told Air Force Magazine of his desire for a “digital representation of every part in the Air Force inventory.”
“We want to reverse-engineer parts that we may not have the designs for anymore,” Roper said. “We want to look at repeatability of parts so that we’re not critically coupled to an individual printing machine. And we want to look at the entire process of what it takes to get a novelty manufactured part onto a critical mission airplane or satellite.”
Earlier as reported by GreatGameIndia, the US Air Force admitted that their F-35 Stealth Fighter Jet Program has failed. The program resulted in a remarkable increase in weight and the F-35 plane now started weighing 25 tons.