Forging the Air Force of tommorow

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William Pugh
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Square One Systems Design, a robotics development company based in Jackson Hole, WY, debuted their prototype robotic loading system titled MHU-TSX to the 2nd Maintenance Group this past week.

AFWERX, an Air Force program created to seek out partnerships with technology-focused private businesses, collaborated with Square One Systems Design to provide a solution to an Air Force-wide problem.

“The design of our current equipment is between 50 to 60 years old,” said Mike Black, Air Force Global Strike Command munitions division modernization branch chief. “It lacks compatibility with our newer, heavier hypersonic armaments.”

The Square One Systems Design team presented their prototype to the 2nd maintenance group to get feedback on it’s performance. While revisions are expected, the team made it clear that the MHU-TSX is a step towards an automated machine that could revolutionize aircraft maintenance Air Force wide.

“We were aware that weapons loading was an ongoing area that the Air Force would like to see modernized and we'd actually done some early concepts,” said Bob Viola, Square One Systems Design director of engineering. “AFWERX was our conduit in, then Global Strike Command and Material Command became responsive to our ideas, from there becoming our partners within the program.”

The prototype MHU-TSX is the latest product of this partnership, and presents key advantages over current standard equipment.

“The core of the system uses non-hydraulic actuation, giving it much more precise movements and the capability to operate in austere airfields,” said Viola.

Viola expressed that the robotic elements should improve the efficiency of loading operations.

“You can attach a sensor package that allows the machine to operate with a high degree of autonomy,” said Viola. “Personnel would only need to supervise what it's doing, which should make the loading process quicker.”

Since spring 2019, The project progressed from idea to a working prototype,
Even considering the delays imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“All of the necessary players have been involved in the project from the ground up,”
Said Black, “I think this is about as close as you can get to the ideal scenario for AFWERX and their business model.”

Feedback and advice collected from the 2nd Maintenance Group has allowed AFWERX to see where their prototype excels and where improvements could be made.

“It's been a huge privilege to be able to come out to the heart of Air Force Global Strike Command and test and evaluate our technology,” said Viola. “The support we’ve been getting over the last few days has been truly gratifying.”