JPAVSE, or the Joint Panel for Aviation Support Equipment, exists as part of the military’s Aviation Common Systems Board, or ACSB. Its primary focus is to identify common needs for support equipment between the branches of the military, which allows for group development and purchasing of equipment, minimizing both the variety and cost of new systems. Through its efforts, the branches have saved an estimated $100 million to date.
The process through which JPAVSE makes these decisions is split into two steps, the first of which is coordination. At each tri-annual meeting, the principle representative of each branch presents a brief of current and future equipment programs, and emerging technologies which might meet these needs are discussed. This is to ensure that each service is aware of potential programs being explored by other branches, and, using this information, each branch is responsible to provide a response exploring possible intersections of equipment need prior to the next meeting.
Once these potentially overlapping needs have been exposed, the panel can move on to the second step, which is creating a financial proposal based on cost estimates and forecasted savings over the lifecycle of the equipment. The cost benefits can be widespread, but the main two factors explored are savings based on economies of scale and cost avoidance, whether it be from a single development and testing process, or simplified maintenance programs.
Once a potential program has been approved, the development and production can begin. This can be a long process. Navy Captain Michael Belcher, the Navy’s principal representative on the panel explains, “Typically, for an average program, from start to finish, once we decide we’re going to buy something, to deliver the last item is about seven years.” He adds, “It could be upwards of eight depending on how complex it is, or it could be as little as five, depending on how many you’re buying.”
Before any order can be placed, the military must work with the manufacturer to develop a product that meets all of its needs, and it must then be extensively tested to ensure it performs as designed. Only once this extensive development phase is complete can actual production begin.
He elaborates that military orders are often placed in a volume that requires a long production process. He says, “If you’re buying 700 to 800 units of an item, it’s going to take four to five years just to put that production out.”
He also explains that production time can be lengthened by the customization the unique requirements military use entails. The environment on a Navy ramp or in a battle zone demands high performance from equipment. “A lot of the stuff we buy is modified from stuff that’s used out there; it maybe has some unique requirements because of our support environment. We do some things other services don’t have to do,” he says.
The easiest way to explore how significant these cost savings can be is to look at two projects currently being carried out. The Automatic Wire Test Set, or AWTS, is one such program. In this program the Navy took a lead role in developing a comprehensive test set which met all of their needs and also happened to fit an Air Force need.
Because the Navy was responsible for the development and testing process, the Air Force was able to purchase this same product without repeating the expenditure, which saved them $320,000, not to mention the quantity price drop the Navy’s order created. At the same time, the Navy also benefited due to the price drop, which a combined order size enabled, saving $750,000. In combination, these two braches saved $2.19 million by coordinating their efforts, not to mention the supply of repair parts, which will be more affordable over the units’ lives due to higher production numbers.