Filling a Need

USAF Contracting for a universal munitions trailer

The two trailers that were to be replaced by the UMT were a light, short unit with just one deck opening and a heavy 3-axle unit with two deck openings. The deck openings are needed to permit the loaders to lift the munitions to the aircraft.

In keeping with their agreed strategy of using the latest aerospace technology in the trailer design, AFMC introduced WASP to a company that had been part of the NASA design teams working on the structure of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. By using three-dimensional computer modeling and sophisticated stress analysis, Hoeper and his team were able to design and propose a trailer with three deck openings which was 500 pounds lighter than the specification required.

The three deck opening configuration gives the munitions handlers the opportunity to load a greater variety of weapons. One of the WASP designed UMTs can carry a typical F-16 munitions load while two trailers of the previous type were needed. As trailers are stacked in threes to fit into the aircraft, the weight reduction meant a 1,500 pound increase in other payloads or increased range with additional fuel. Obviously, this trailer will be easier to handle on the ground and will make it easier on the tires and brakes. For GSE manufacturers the idea of obtaining strength without increasing weight is a breakthrough.

WASP followed AFMC's advice and used an experienced company to assist in writing the proposal. So when the Air Force was presented with a professional complete proposal of a breakthrough design accompanied by a Finite Element Analysis Chart produced by the loads and dynamics team it was receiving a near final design. In less than a month WASP was awarded the contract, beating out 16 other companies including some of which were long time providers.Now it was up to WASP to produce. When a company is 100 percent owned by the employees everybody knows how important it is to fulfill commitments. Hoeper and Kalina are the leaders but it takes the men and women on the factory floor to build the hardware. It took team effort to win the contract and continuing team effort to get the trailers rolling out the door to be delivered to the Air Force.

WASP contracted with AFMC to have Frank Urbanic serve as program manager during the final design, testing and prototype manufacture and he operated a mini USAF program office at WASP's Glenwood, MN, facility. They built rough road and incline test tracks and a third prototype for testing. A smart idea before the Air Force subjected the prototype to the grueling beating the Army would give it at its Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Commited to keeping costs down and quality up while manufacturing the aluminum frames for the trailers, WASP invested in advanced milling equipment. Tires are always a problem for GSE and the UMT requires very good ones; high loads with small diameter wheels on rough roads. WASP had them made to its specification and has proprietary rights to the design.

The tough part of the design, acquisition, development and set up for serial manufacture behind them, WASP is looking forward to a long production run for the Air Force and other customers. Delivery has started at the rate of 20 per month.

The WASP UMT experience showed that a competent GSE company without significant government contracting experience can enter the market if they team with or employ specialist organizations that "know the territory" and which can contribute expertise in contracting, design and working with the huge bureaucracy that is inevitable in government procurements.

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