America’s Air Force Is Having To Reverse Engineer Parts of Its Own Stealth Bomber

Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo shares a report from The Drive: In a surprising turn of events, the United States government is calling upon its country’s industry to reverse engineer components for the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. An official call for this highly unusual kind of assistance was put out today on the U.S. government’s contracting website beta.SAM.gov. Mark Thompson, a national-security analyst at the Project On Government Oversight, brought our attention to the notice, which seeks an engineering effort that will reverse engineer key parts for the B-2’s Load Heat Exchangers. While it is not exactly clear what part of the aircraft’s many complex and exotic subsystems these heat exchangers relate to, the bomber has no shortage of avionics systems, for example, which could require cooling…

While it’s hard to say exactly why this approach is being taken now, it indicates that the original plans for these components are unavailable or the manufacturing processes and tooling used to produce them no longer exists… Indeed, as the average age of the Air Force fleet continues to increase, there are only likely to be more such requirements for parts that are long out of production. Before he stood down, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Will Roper, told Air Force Magazine of his desire for a “digital representation of every part in the Air Force inventory….”

All in all, the search for reverse-engineered components for the B-2 fleet is keeping with the Air Force’s current trend of moving toward the latest digital engineering and manufacturing techniques to help ensure its aircraft can be sustained not just easier and more cheaply, but in some cases, possibly at all.