Tinker to Get 1,000 Jobs from Maintenance of B-2s

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Journal Record Staff Reporter It's two years early, but military and civilian employees at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base have proven they can maintain engines on the B-2 Stealth bomber. By doing so, they have assured at least 1,000 jobs at Tinker for the next 30 or so years, probably longer. That's the assessment of Maj. Gen. Richard M. Scofield, B-2 program director who was at Tinker Wednesday to officiate over a ceremony marking completion of a one-year test program to prove the center's capability to maintain the engines. "We've (Air Force officers) always said there are two B-2 programs: one inside the Beltway (highway encircling Washington, D.C.) and one outside the Beltway," Scofield said during the ceremony. "The program inside the Beltway is concerned only with the budget and financial figures, while the one outside continually sets new performance standards. "The program here is a good example of the outside B-2 program. "There is no question but the budget numbers are big when you talk about the B-2. But what is the real cost and what are the real benefits? What is the true investment is improvement of Air Force capabilities with further payoff in new aircraft and combat capabilities. "Early organic support of the B-2 program means we are only beginning to realize the benefits of this investment," Scofield said. "You have shown that you can support the B-2 engine effectively and efficiently after the first flight of the third airplane. "You are ready two years early." There are now 66 of the General Electric Corp.-built F118GE100 engines in the U.S. Air Force inventory, and a maintenance line has been established to overhaul and maintain the powerplants. There are only three B-2s in existence; the third airplane entered the testing phase Tuesday. The other two have been undergoing tests since July 1989. Operational units of the Strategic Air Command, based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is to receive the first B-2 in 1993. Each B-2 is powered by four turbofan engines, each capable of generating 19,000 pounds of thrust. The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Tinker's largest tenant unit, has primary maintenance responsibilities for the bomber. Although the test program to prove the local center's capabilities began a year ago, development work on the engine and its maintenance began about 10 years ago at Tinker. A small group began studying the system in secrecy to develop training and maintenance manuals and systems for the local operation, according to Col. Ed Petersen, the system's program manager in Oklahoma City. Maintaining both the B-2's engine and airframe in one location will provide jobs at Tinker in the long-term future, according to Maj. Gen. Joseph K. Spiers, commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center. "We are truly, truly excited about this," Spiers said. "Every engine needs a place it can come to when it's sick. This engine is very fortunate in that it can come here when it needs attention. "The F118 engine is scheduled for two-level training, organic and depot level, which means basically on-equipment or off-equipment. …