One of the principal choke points behind low mission capability rates for US military aircraft has been insufficient inventories of spare parts. Time and again, the defense supply chain has failed to maintain adequate stocking levels of components, leaving dozens — if not hundreds — of aircraft of all types sidelined for months waiting for the right parts. The result: Supply chain inefficiencies have become one of the most pivotal factors behind dismal readiness ratings for the fleets of all four services.
Maintaining the competitive aerial advantage of the nation’s military fleet is a critical priority of the Defense Department, especially as geopolitical tensions with Russia begin to resemble the Cold War era and relations with China remain strained. Mission readiness requires a large percentage of fully mission capable aircraft, which hasn’t been the case for at least a decade, according to a 2020 US Government Accountability Office study.
A partial solution is available if the Department of Defense (DoD) is willing to incorporate certified used replacement parts into the military’s procurement program in the same comprehensive way commercial airlines worldwide have depended upon them for decades.
Relying on used serviceable material (USM) is a common practice among carriers around the world. It is a proven strategy of a highly regulated, safety-first industry that has allowed airlines to cut overall costs for parts replacement by 30% to 50%, based on prices for new components from aerospace manufacturers. For instance, the military realized a 32.5% material cost savings on an overhaul of a CFM56-7B engine using USM parts instead of out-of-the-box components from manufacturers, according to our analysis. That’s substantial, especially if it can be replicated for other aircraft.