The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) mission is to develop and deliver responsive aviation, missile, and calibration materiel readiness to the Army. An inherent and critical enabler of this acquisition lifecycle sustainment mission is to ensure that Army aviation assets can deliver decisive operational capabilities to the warfighter not only today but into the future. AMCOM is leaning forward in aviation sustainment by searching out and embracing efforts to capitalize on advanced manufacturing.
In 2019, the Army published Army Directive 2019-29, Enabling Readiness and Modernization through Advanced Manufacturing, dated Sept. 18, 2019, which defines advanced manufacturing as new methods of manufacturing existing products through emerging technological advancements. Additive manufacturing is a subset of advanced manufacturing and is a process of joining materials to make parts from 3D model data as opposed to traditional subtractive manufacturing processes.
When this directive was published, AMCOM was already actively pursuing advanced manufacturing as a possibility to enhance current sustainment efforts and inform future efforts. In partnership with Wichita State University National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, Kansas, and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, as part of its ongoing 30-month H-60L Digital Twin effort that began in 2019, AMCOM is working to create a collaborative environment through which 3D modeling and simulation will enable functional subject matter experts to evaluate and validate systems and integrity of repairs, develop criteria for design and analysis needed to identify a list of parts that can be manufactured through Advanced/Additive Manufacturing, and serve as a pathfinder for future advanced manufacturing efforts in the Army aviation enterprise.
Getting the policies established on how Army aviation will take advantage of advanced manufacturing early on is one of the main focus areas for AMCOM. Completing the intellectual rigor now is critical to future success.
In May 2020, Maj. Gen. K. Todd Royar, the AMCOM commander and Army airworthiness authority, led the effort with original equipment manufacturers and subject matter experts within the aviation advanced manufacturing community to publish AMCOM command policy memorandum 070-062 U.S. Army Aviation Policy for Advanced Manufactured Aircraft Parts, Components, and Support Products, dated May 22, 2020. This document established AMCOM's policies regarding the manufacturing, use, and airworthiness qualification of advanced manufactured aircraft parts, components, and support products, specifically addressing additive manufacturing. This policy serves as the foundation for Army aviation advanced manufacturing and will enable the Army to effectively use the 3D files from the H60L Digital Twin effort, should the modeled part pass the rigorous qualification process.
AMCOM continues to research cutting-edge sustainment technologies, business processes, and methodologies to improve its sustainment missions. By using statement of research efforts and other transactional agreements, AMCOM is aligning Army aviation maintenance concepts and practices with those best business practices found in industry and academia to include advanced maintenance approaches, tools, and technology related to composite and metallic structural and non-structural aircraft parts.
While practical use of advanced manufacturing is still in its infancy, it holds exceptional promise to enable readiness in the Army through multiple means. First, it will facilitate lower production lead times than traditional manufacturing methods and lower costs in some applications. Second, it will likely enable more sources of supply, which not only will enable capacity but will also facilitate competition. Finally, it can facilitate producing some parts further forward on the battlefield, which will enable readiness and reduce the strain on the transportation system.
As we continue to learn and grow the aviation advanced manufacturing knowledge base, the command continues to share lessons learned with its’ Army partners and our sister services in support of their digital twin/thread and advanced manufacturing efforts. We will eventually be able to identify and implement new capabilities into our current and future processes.
Joyce Myers currently serves as the director and chief data and analytics officer, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Data and Analytics Center, responsible for the command-wide data and information strategy, governance, policy development, digital transformation, and the data literacy program. As a retired sergeant first class, Myers served various roles as an Army logistician during her military career. She holds an Associate of Science in Structural Engineering, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Logistics Management, and a Master of Science in Education.
This content is published online in conjunction with the Winter 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.