Procurement: March 24, 2003

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The B-52 bomber, among it's many accomplishments during it's half century of service, stands as the shining example of how remanufacturing can be cheaper and more effective than designing and building new equipment. The B-52s currently flying were originally built four decades ago and have been "remanufactured" several times since then. These B-52s cost $55 million (in current dollars) each when new and each costs about three million dollars a year to operate. But the upgrades and refurbishment of the B-52s have cost several times that. Every four years, each B-52 (which only flies about 300 hours a year) gets stripped down bare metal and gone over to find any item showing signs of corrosion or fatigue. The B-52 is the cheapest and most cost effective of Americas three heavy bombers (B-1 and B-2 are the others.) Despite it's age, the B-52 has some of the most up to date electronics warfare and targeting electronics available. It has proved itself time and again. Despite this, there is enormous resistance in the air force and navy to remanufacturing aircraft in the same manner. The marines are different. Since a remanufactured aircraft costs, on average, about half what a new design does, and the marines are chronically short of cash, they are remanufacturing their Vietnam era UH-1 transport and AH-1 gunship helicopters. Also, for budgetary reasons, the navy was forced to constantly remanufacture its EA-6 electronics warfare aircraft. Lacking any foe with a large enough R&D budget to create a viable threat, the air force could have remanufactured the F-15 into an air superiority fighters for the next two decades. Instead, it went for the much more expensive F-22. But because of the lack of apparent threats in the air, we will probably never see the dark side of that deal. Any future air threat could be handled by refurbed F-15s or new F-22s. But the money saved with refurbs would have allowed more C-17 transports to be built, and those are really needed. Despite the desire for new equipment, more military organizations are looking to refurbishment and remanufacturing of major equipment. Since so many of the improvements involve new electronics, and not changes in the basic equipment itself, this is a way to keep stuff going and make it better without breaking the bank. 

 


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