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News | Feb. 23, 2023

DCMA lands key role in fighter-jet manufacturing move

By Jason Kaneshiro DCMA Eastern Region Public Affairs

It’s been years since the last F-16 Falcon fighter jets rolled off the assembly line in Texas. Hundreds of miles away in South Carolina, the first aircraft of a new line are being assembled and Defense Contract Management Agency played a key role to ensure the new facility met standards.

The 40-year old aircraft design was last manufactured at a Fort Worth, Texas, facility that now produces the F-35 fighter aircraft.

“The DCMA Greenville team has monitored and surveilled this process from day one,” said Dave Kozdras, F-16 program integrator with DCMA Aircraft Integrated Maintenance Operations Greenville. “We have eyes on everything from the tooling plan to the setup, inspection, and certification of the production tooling to ensure the facility was ready to produce conforming aircraft.”

The South Carolina facility was previously used to the Overhaul, Maintenance, Modification, and Repair of aircraft, Kozdras said.

“One thing to note is that despite the fact Lockheed Martin had been producing the F-16 for several years, the production line in Texas was shut down for two years and much of the staff and suppliers had moved on,” Kozdras said. “That, paired with the move to Greenville, South Carolina, made the re-start especially challenging.”

As soon as DCMA Greenville learned that production of the F-16 would be moving from Fort Worth to South Carolina, the contract management office proactively undertook a series of trips to the Texas facility to learn as much as possible about the production program there before it was shut down, said Kyle Richeson, DCMA AIMO Greenville Manufacturing and Engineering supervisor.

Richeson, who had served as the F-16 program integrator prior to Kozdras, said all key functional specialists were afforded the opportunity to travel to the Texas-based Lockheed Martin facility to gain a better understanding of the program.

“These series of trips helped to forge a collaborative approach between our CMO and the CMO in Texas, resulting in open communication and information sharing of existing DCMA surveillance plans, all previous reporting, and assessments of existing vendors and overseas co-producers,” Richeson said.

Due to the production line shutting down, the Air Force Program Office decided to include the AS6500 Manufacturing Management Program as a contractual requirement.

“This was a relatively new requirement but it provided a very logical approach to assess manufacturing readiness levels to ensure the contractor was ready to start production and to identify and assess any potential risks to the manufacturing process,” Richeson said.

It required several Manufacturing Readiness Level assessments that were conducted at all major production locations.

“The Air Force Manufacturing Engineering team requested DCMA support and assistance on the assessments,” Richeson said. “The assessments were invaluable in providing insight into production capabilities and identifying the risks at each co-producer location.”

The aircraft manufactured at the Greenville plant fall within F-16 Block 70. The first aircraft made its maiden flight on January 2023. These F-16’s are being manufactured for Bahrain, Bulgaria, Slovakia and other nations as part of Foreign Military Sales.