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Store Production Facilities For Future Use  
User currently offlineRheinwaldner From Switzerland, joined Jan 2008, 2222 posts, RR: 5
Posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3026 times:

I have a question:
Would it be feasible to store production facilities and tools to resume production maybe decades later again? I mean, there are severall examples, where technological progress does not warrant a new clean sheet design (e.g. even the Bronco OV-10 may see a revival!). Also the C-5, C-17, maybe some NAVY planes, could be candidates for a revival once production ended. If rather small modifications (new engines + avionics) would bring the plane up to today's level, relaunching the production could offer some very good solutions! I think sometimes production ended prematurely.

It is my understanding that tools usualy have been destroyed, but maybe this was a mistake. I think for many roles the current aircrafts offer a certain capability. Any time in the future when
this capability is needed the same plane could be used.

I mean the airframes of an A-6, S-3, B-52, C-130, C-5, C-17 will EVER have all the capability that is wanted for their specific role. Other than new engines and avionics there is no need to change a lot if the need arises to have "new" planes for that role. The only "new" feature that I see is stealth. For the rest you could just pimp old designs with new engines and a glass cockpit.

Ok, I know in the past there were no such considerations. But could it be wise, e.g. store the tools for the C-17 prod line, and relaunch production in maybe 40 years if the C-17 fleets need to be replaced.

To judge about that you have to remember that almost any need once is adressed by a certain level of technology. There is no unending progress in many areas. Certain questions get answered once and for all by a certain solution. Even if you could start from scratch, your new solution would not differ substantially from the past one (I mean in what areas did the C-17 move the paradigms set by the C-5? Except engines and systems?).

15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12134 posts, RR: 51
Reply 1, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3022 times:

In the US, tooling for aircraft is often stored for decades. For example the tooling for the KC-135 was finally scrapped at DM in the late '90s and early '00s. Tooling for the F/FB-111 was stored at the LM plant (former GD plant), just down the street from me, it was finally cut up in 2003, almost 10 years after the last of the F/FB/EF-111s retired from USAF service (but I think the storage continued at the request of the RAAF). The tooling for the B-52 and C-141 is long gone, but the tooling for the C-5 and C-130 is still around.

User currently offlineFlybaurLAX From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 638 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 2965 times:

They store a lot of production equipment in Tucson at AMARG. The tour guide told us they have a lot of equipment out there in case they need to restart production on a specific model. I saw some B-2 structures used for production, and for other models. It was really interesting to see. I'm sure someone else has more info on this than I do, but I'm just telling you what I saw and heard on the tour.


Boilerup! Go Purdue!
User currently offlineSpudh From Ireland, joined Jul 2009, 300 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 2942 times:

I know Cheney ordered the destruction of the F14 tooling in the early 90's so no hope there  Smile

I suppose what you are saying has more relevance with transport airframes as you have suggested. It's not hard to imagine a proven successful design such as say a C3 flying with turboprops if the tooling was available to certain markets.
Hard to see how someone could claw back the millions in development costs of something new to match the capabilities of say the C-130 in airtime/maintenance efficiencies if immediate production was available for tooling purchase costs.


User currently offlineNoWorries From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 539 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 2913 times:



Quoting FlybaurLAX (Reply 2):
They store a lot of production equipment in Tucson at AMARG. The tour guide told us they have a lot of equipment out there in case they need to restart production on a specific model

When I took the tour some years ago I'm almost certain that I heard them mention the B-1 tooling.


User currently offlineSpectre242 From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 103 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 2884 times:



Quoting Spudh (Reply 3):
I know Cheney ordered the destruction of the F14 tooling in the early 90's so no hope there

I always thought there was nothing more damning nor spiteful to do to an axed aircraft program than destroying the manufacturing tooling and jigs along with it. It's like the government shouting a loud "Screw you! I'm having my way and you can't do anything about it, not now, not ever!"

I understand aircraft programs can be canceled or cut short for many reasons, and those cuts are often justified one way or another - but I never saw the real justification for destroying manufacturing tooling, besides simply making sure that the program will stay dead. It's already built and paid for, it seems prudent to maintain such investments (within reason) in case the next administration wants to re-examine the program. Destroying the tooling seems purely political in that respect! And it makes the programs supports feel extra bitter for the same reason!

Does anyone know if the original, canceled, B-1A tooling all still available when the B-1B program was started?

I remeber the example of the British TSR2, which had it's tooling jigs broken up when the program was canceled during flight testing. I read bitter accounts about how the governement had all the tooling destroyed when they killed the flight test program. Also, I believe that a few years and an election or two later, restarting the program was studied, but it would be very costly, in part at least, because the manufacturing tooling, jigs, etc had been dismantled!


User currently offlineNoWorries From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 539 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 2827 times:

Something I've often wondered about ... with so many systems heavily computerized now, how could they save the "tooling." If chips and other components go out of production, it might take serious redesign to bring back production.

User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12417 posts, RR: 25
Reply 7, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2816 times:

New U-2s were built in the 1980s so presumably that tooling was stored for 20 years or so from the 60s to the 80s.

Quoting NoWorries (Reply 6):
Something I've often wondered about ... with so many systems heavily computerized now, how could they save the "tooling." If chips and other components go out of production, it might take serious redesign to bring back production.

That was true long before computerization. I had a friend who worked on radars and a lot of the discrete components were hard to get a few years after the originals were produced. In things like radars, tolerances really mattered, and quite often any tweak the manufacturer made to a product ended up mattering.

You can see the trend on new programs is to reduce the amount of physical tooling, and one can imagine the designs for these tools are on CAD/CAM systems, but if people aren't very careful in feeding back any changes back in to the CAD/CAM systems the tools will be very hard to recreate.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineSpectre242 From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 103 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 2768 times:



Quoting NoWorries (Reply 6):
Something I've often wondered about ... with so many systems heavily computerized now, how could they save the "tooling." If chips and other components go out of production, it might take serious redesign to bring back production.

Would this matter so much? If you restart an aircraft program after a several years, it's more for the capabilities of the overall airframe, rather than the avionics. Avionics, radars, etc would become obsolete more quickly than an airframe design. In a production re-start, the avionics would most probably be upgraded with modern systems. It would save weight, increase capability and probably be cheaper than trying to recreate the old electronics for the reasons you gave (especially if they use new off-the-shelf systems).

I believe this is the case with the proposed new-build OV-10s.


User currently offlineRheinwaldner From Switzerland, joined Jan 2008, 2222 posts, RR: 5
Reply 9, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2739 times:



Quoting NoWorries (Reply 6):
If chips and other components go out of production

Those belong mostly to the avionics. If decades later the production would start again, I would propose anyway to spend an upgrade to the plane in the form of new engines and new avionics.


User currently offlineSpudh From Ireland, joined Jul 2009, 300 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 2709 times:

I suppose that the only fly in the ointment is that the new-build aircraft will still have old style physical maintainabilty issues.
Take a worst case example, imagine redoing the BAe Lightening, no amount of updating avionics or engines is going to help getting an engine in or out of it, except that it will happen less often.
I don't know enough about the Teen series fighters to say how much they had advanced in this respect but any of the modern designs should be designed as much for their excellence in the hangar as in the air.

Maybe some of the older utility aircraft have less "gotcha's" than fighters and as said above there could be a certain amount of rationalising in the re-build (I believe this happened in the case of the F-14 D's).


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12417 posts, RR: 25
Reply 11, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 2704 times:



Quoting Rheinwaldner (Reply 9):
Those belong mostly to the avionics. If decades later the production would start again, I would propose anyway to spend an upgrade to the plane in the form of new engines and new avionics.

Yes, but those are the high-cost items. Just look at the costs of the C-5 engine and avionics upgrades! So there will also be those that say why not improve the airframe too by starting all over? And of course that means a whole new procurement bid, which will make the Congressmen happy because they have huge slabs of pork they can wave in the noses of the lobbyists.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineRheinwaldner From Switzerland, joined Jan 2008, 2222 posts, RR: 5
Reply 12, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 2640 times:



Quoting Revelation (Reply 11):
Yes, but those are the high-cost items. Just look at the costs of the C-5 engine and avionics upgrades!

Why is this? Engines can mostly be taken from the shell. For new avionics there is always a state-of-the-art product (delivered anyway by third party offerer) available that can be integrated.

Even more important is the relative cost compared with a clean sheet design. The avionics and the engines are not cheaper for a clean sheet design. I would say that additional cost to develop a completely new airframe from scratch is much larger than the cost of integrating new engines and avionics. And if you have a design for an airframe, that fulfills the inherent requirements to a certain aircraft class, IMO it should be reused.


User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12134 posts, RR: 51
Reply 13, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2592 times:

Quoting Spectre242 (Reply 5):
Quoting Spudh (Reply 3):
I know Cheney ordered the destruction of the F14 tooling in the early 90's so no hope there

I always thought there was nothing more damning nor spiteful to do to an axed aircraft program than destroying the manufacturing tooling and jigs along with it. It's like the government shouting a loud "Screw you! I'm having my way and you can't do anything about it, not now, not ever!"

Actually, fighter tooling isn't kept around as long as tooling for heavies is. Fighters normally don't have long production periods. Of course the F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 are the current acceptions. But the F-14 was not in production that long, about 15 years, or so. There is also a cost to keeping the tooling in useable storage each year. Did then SOD Cheney scrap the F-14 tooling to save money?

Quoting Spectre242 (Reply 5):
Does anyone know if the original, canceled, B-1A tooling all still available when the B-1B program was started?

There is not a lot of B-1A tooling, as each of the four airplanes built were hand builds. Of course there is some common tooling, but not as much as you would think.

But here's a question for everyone. Should the USAF decide again of the A-330MRTT and buys it, who would own the tooling? Usually it is the USAF, or USN that owns the tooling, not the OEM. But in this case, the A-330 has been in service long before it became a tanker, and EADS currently owns and controls the tooling. The same would be true for a KC-767 or a KC-777.

[Edited 2009-10-09 13:01:37]

User currently offlinePar13del From Bahamas, joined Dec 2005, 7115 posts, RR: 8
Reply 14, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2585 times:



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 13):
Did then SOD Cheney scrap the F-14 tooling to save money?

The F-14 even with it's issues had a lot of supporters, and the a/c replacing it did not meet or exceed all of it capabilities, by scrapping the tooling he ensured that it could never be resurrected.

Another point to consider is finances from the OEM's sides, they want to make money from these programs, so new builds bring in more funds, longer development runs to milk the consumer, etc. etc. They have become so adept at this that evene things like SLEP programs re-engines, new avionics are now almost as costly as a new build, imagine getting your car re-painted costing 10% less than a new car, bummer


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12417 posts, RR: 25
Reply 15, posted (4 years 10 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 2554 times:



Quoting Rheinwaldner (Reply 12):
Quoting Revelation (Reply 11):
Yes, but those are the high-cost items. Just look at the costs of the C-5 engine and avionics upgrades!

Why is this? Engines can mostly be taken from the shell. For new avionics there is always a state-of-the-art product (delivered anyway by third party offerer) available that can be integrated.

Engines come off the shelf, but pylons don't, plus the interfacing to existing fuel / hyrdaulic / bleed air / thrust reverser / electronic connections. Plus with C-5A the engineering is going to be spread at best 100-200 frames.

Same for the avionics. Cheap enough, but have to be wired to existing circuts, maybe generators have to be uprated, etc.

And of course, don't forget the markups every defense contractor makes.

Quoting Rheinwaldner (Reply 12):
Even more important is the relative cost compared with a clean sheet design. The avionics and the engines are not cheaper for a clean sheet design. I would say that additional cost to develop a completely new airframe from scratch is much larger than the cost of integrating new engines and avionics. And if you have a design for an airframe, that fulfills the inherent requirements to a certain aircraft class, IMO it should be reused.

I didn't say it'd be cheaper, I said there'd be more chances for Congress to have a nice pork dinner. As we see we have KC-135s that do thier job just fine and have 30 years of frame life left, but we are getting new KC-Xs.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
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