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«A functioning logistics system provides the fundamental prerequisite for the weapon system to be operated»

In the last article of our Air2030 series, we focus on product support. Product support ensures that the system remains functional throughout its service life. In the evaluation of a new fighter aircraft and an extended-range ground-based air defence system, product support plays a major role and accounts for 25 percent of the benefit analysis. Walter Infanger, project manager for product support, describes in the following article how product support is embedded in the evaluation process of a new fighter aircraft.

Aeronautical Systems, Air2030 Programme

Portrait of Walter Infanger
Walter Infanger, project manager for product support «new fighter aircraft»

Product support for a high-technology weapon system, such as a combat aircraft, is of central importance. Product support plays a major role in ensuring the required fleet availability as well as the associated operational capability and autonomy of the Air Force. For the combat aircraft, as the primary operational asset of the Air Force, this applies to all situations and in particular to times of increased tension up to the point of defence.

(Almost) everything around the weapon system

A functioning logistics system provides the fundamental prerequisite for the weapon system to be operated. Product support includes all the logistics elements required for subsequent operation. These include tools, spares with an appropriate management strategy, inspection and test facilities, technical documentation, pilot and technical training, training equipment, infrastructure and much more. Related safety and environmental aspects are also part of product support.

Working in a integrated Team

During the evaluation the Product Support Core Team consists of one employee of armasuisse, one employee of the Armed Forces Logistics Base and one employee of the Air Force, thus forming an integrated team. This core team is supported in various areas by further specialists from the above-mentioned organisational units. The product support requirements for the new fighter aircraft were defined at the beginning of the project. armasuisse is responsible for the project until its introduction. The system responsibility is then transferred to the Armed Forces Logistics Base, which is responsible for the utilisation phase. As a future user, it is important that the Air Force is actively involved in the operational aspects in all phases.

Evaluation and validation of data

In the Request for Proposal, candidates were asked to provide extensive binding data, which they had to submit with their proposals. The plausibility of the data was validated both during product support audits and during flight and ground tests. The audits were carried out with the respective armed forces abroad. Specialists from the areas of operations, maintenance, logistics and training audited the candidates for three days each according to defined test points. The flight and ground tests took place in Switzerland. During the evaluation, the binding data as well as the results of the audits and the flight and ground tests are now evaluated, assessed and compared with regard to various assessment points. A possible evaluation point could be «ease of maintenance». Among other things, the ease with which aircraft maintenance can be carried out will be assessed under this point. The efficiency of aircraft maintenance also has an influence on personnel workload, which in turn has an impact on the life cycle costs.

Evaluation criteria for the new fighter aircraft

In the cost-benefit analysis of the evaluation, the weighting of product support is 25 percent on the benefit axis. The other main evaluation criteria for the benefit of the system are effectiveness with 55 percent, cooperation between the armed forces and cooperation between procurement authorities with 10 percent and direct offsets with 10 percent. Only at the end of the evaluation process, after the comparison of total benefits and total costs in the evaluation report, is it possible to determine the results of the evaluation.

Bref portrait

Walter Infanger (49) is a graduate engineer in electrical engineering. After working as mechanic, technician, systems engineer and project manager in Swiss aviation companies he joined armasuisse in 2008. From November 2008 - until March 2018 Walter Infanger was responsible for the integrated logistics support for the fighter aircraft F/A-18C/D Hornet. In addition, he was project manager for product support in the projects Upgrade 25 (U25) and Service Life Extension (NUV) F/A-18C/D as well as project manager for spares procurement within the framework of the armament programs 13 and 16. Since 2018 he has been project manager for product support of the «New Fighter Aircraft» project.