Equipment maintenance airmen at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, have a $176,000 machine with which they can produce two-dimensional parts for almost any aircraft on the base. And, when the machine turned out its first part, it had saved the Air Force more than $346,000. It does work that was once outsourced, according to MSgt. Toxie Robbins, superintendent of the 3rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s fabrication flight. The 3rd EMS airmen use computer design software to design, manufacture, and test the metal components they want to make in a virtual environment before making the first actual cut. Apart from saving money, Robbins says the machine also has reduced turnaround time by 90 percent.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.