directorate has cradle-to-grave responsibilities for materials and manufacturing, which means it is involved in sustainability and cost of future materials and systems, as well as the life-cycle management problems associated with maintaining and sustaining the aircraft “on the ramp” today. In 2012 the new Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) was created, replacing the Aeronautical Systems Center. The new center is responsible for supporting aircraft weapon systems through their entire life cycle.
As context for the Air Force’s problem of aging aircraft, Dr. Stevens showed a chart of the systems that had been introduced in each decade since the 1950s, with those still in the inventory shown in red, those out of the inventory in black, and systems in development shown in blue (Figure 1). The average aircraft has been in service for 23 years, with fighter aircraft averaging 22 years, tankers 35 years, and bombers 47 years. Even though the current fleet is the smallest in numbers of aircraft since the inception of the Air Force, the cost of sustaining the fleet continues to rise (Figure 2).
The AFRL sustainment investment is divided among three research thrusts:
• Supporting sustainment of the current fleet (field and depot sustainment);
• Improving fleet health management; and
• Enabling robust design of new systems through use of advanced tools, techniques, and processes.
FIGURE 1 Air Force legacy and projected aircraft inventory. Year of first flight or, as denoted by an asterisk, first appearance of a commercial derivative in the Air Force inventory. SOURCE: AFSAB, 2011, p. 13.