Collaboration results in innovative “win” for Barksdale

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  • By Barksdale Innovation Group

Tucked away in workcenters, laboratories and flightlines throughout the Air Force are answers to some of our biggest challenges. Sometimes the answer to these challenges is closer and cheaper than you may realize. Bringing innovative solutions to the 2nd Bomb Wing, Airmen from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the Barksdale Innovation Group and Project Arc collaborated to answer the CSAF’s call to “Accelerate Change”.

Project Arc, a grass-roots pilot program that embeds uniformed Scientists, Technologists and Engineers (STEs) into operational units to deliver asymmetric technological advantages in the battlespace against near-peer competitors, is championed by the Air Force Chief Scientist's office. These select Airmen and Guardians (referred to as Jedi…it’s awesome, we know!) spend 6-months TDY to an operational Wing. These members address operational problems, rapidly exploit and adapt technology, and accelerate change in the operations domain. The core goal is to leverage existing AF talent at the tactical level to pursue rapid innovation projects, ideally at low cost. Recently, AFGSC hosted two Project Arc Jedi (2nd Lt. Jacob Geil from Nellis AFB and Capt. Rachel Wolfgang from Kirtland AFB) on a 6-month tour, who split their time between AFGSC HQ taskings and working hands-on with several 2nd Bomb Wing Airmen.

At 2AMXS, the Weapons Flight sought a faster way to adjust the “R2-D2” angle table for weapons loading. In the past, they could only adjust it manually by spinning a crank handle, which could take approximately 10-15 minutes and up to three technicians to get into the correct position. Senior Airman William Oskay, 2AMXS Weapons, highlighted this issue and provided technical oversight on the solution.

Lt Geil, a mechanical engineer, designed a socket-style adapter with CAD software that allowed adjustments to be done with power tools and had a prototype 3D printed by the Barksdale Innovation Group. The 3D printed part was fit tested and then brought to the 2nd Maintenance Squadron’s Metals Tech shop to be fabricated out of steel. Function and fit checks of the metal adapter were completed and deemed a success. During non-load testing (empty), the Angle Table took 1:09 to raise to 50 degrees. With a bomb load, this same task calls for swapping people out to take turns cranking the table into position and about 15 minutes to raise it. The table is then lowered and prepared for the next load, where this process is repeated. With the Adapter on the power tool, the empty table took 6 seconds to get into position. Testing with a load is being scheduled with the Weapons Load Training section. Since a loaded table can be manually cranked by hand, it is reasonable to expect the load-bearing tests of the new tool to yield similar results in time saved while raising, adjusting, and lowering the table. This innovative solution reduces the manpower required to manually adjust the table by up to 90%.

Another project was a redesigned housing for the circuit breaker and cable connector on the B-52 Fan Kit. Numerous designs are in circulation across the AF that were built to outdated specifications, are excessively bulky, and difficult to replace. A prototype, fabricated by Airmen at the 2nd Maintenance Squadron’s Metals Technology and Sheet Metal shops, significantly reduced the size and weight, added a new status light and cable support handles. The initial build was successful and follow-up iterations will be performed to include various improvements before finalization.

In today’s market, this development process has a myriad of costs associated with it which make it cost prohibitive for local units to pursue these solutions. New product development can cost over $75,000 to develop and pre-manufacture a custom product. If you need production and logistics, add another $30K minimum. These numbers fluctuate depending on what is being designed, but it is easy to see the cost savings the Air Force can experience by leveraging its own member’s talents.

All of the work the engineers have done has been in their additional time outside of their duties to AFGSC/A5. A future goal is to get them embedded within the 2nd BW, where their full-time efforts could produce ten-times the number of results that were delivered this year.

If you need assistance in tackling a problem, the Barksdale Innovation Group will work with you to define it and connect you with agencies that can create a solution for you! Our email is below!

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