Keeping Army systems from becoming obsolete, one part at a time

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Air Force's B-52 Stratofortress bomber is still a crucial part of America's defense, despite the fact it has been flying since 1955.  The huge bomber is still on duty because of the ongoing effort to replace old parts, obsolete parts, with new parts.

The Army doesn't have any legacy systems that old still on duty, but consider this: "Things are going to go obsolete every single day on all of your weapons systems," said Rese Stevens, the Obsolescence Service Lead.

Rese works out of the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Command at Redstone Arsenal. It's now part of the Army Futures Command and ultimately Rese's job falls under the Combat Capability Development Command.  Her job is to keep obsolescence from getting in the way of operational readiness.

The biggest reason for a part to become obsolete is simple. "The manufacturer decides to no longer make it. This is generally going to be because of technology advancement," said Rese.

The part could be as simple as a bracket, or as complicated as an entire GPS system for a vehicle, or even a helicopter.  "There can be a sense of panic because you're going to ground that system. If you don't get that part, some kind of replacement immediately and in a timely manner, you're going to ground that system. You're not going to be able to fly it," said Rese.

The Army works hard to be proactive to stop situations from getting dire. Right now there's one project to replace old analog cockpits in Black Hawk helicopters with new digital controls.  That's one effort among many. Whatever is done to keep obsolescence at bay, always has a big goal.

"Making sure the soldiers can get the materials they need so that we do not have readiness issues due to obsolescence," said Rese.

Being cost efficient is another goal, but the soldiers always come first. The effort to fight obsolescence actually starts with programs in the development stage. Parts can actually go obsolete that early in the process. Rese Stevens says there's a major effort to make sure designers consider future obsolescence from the very beginning.

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