State, military leaders highlight role of innovative partnerships


Gov. Mary Fallin and Tinker Air Force Base leaders stressed the importance partnerships with prime contractors have in the aerospace and aviation industry at the 12th annual Tinker and the Primes event, held Aug. 22-24 at the Reed Conference Center.

Topics ranged from maintenance, repair and overhaul to logistics and readiness, aircraft sustainment to modernization of aging aircraft, and innovators joined at the helm of the three-day event to network and strengthen those established partnerships.

Fallin briefed the approximately 700 registered participants on the state’s rich history in aerospace and aviation, reaching all levels of government, large and small businesses and different divisions of the military.

“With test flights conducted a couple years after our statehood (in 1907), our own Wiley Post designing the pressurized suit for space flight and discovery of the jet stream, and founding of several commercial airlines in the state,” Fallin said, “it’s clear that the state has a rich history in aviation.”

Tinker and the Primes serves as an opportunity to innovate together and support the United States military. Advancing technologies to remain dominant is essential, and accomplished through avenues and conferences that generate collaboration, innovation and cultivation.

As one of the top conference events in the nation relating to the aerospace and defense industry, Tinker and the Primes hailed a list of partners including Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Roller Bearing Company, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics Systems Integration.

Militarily, Tinker Air Force Base is recognized as one of seven centers in the world for maintenance, overhaul and repair of aircraft. The depot at Tinker has the largest military maintenance, overhaul and repair facility, while American Airlines in Tulsa claims to have the largest commercial facility in the world, too.

“Partnerships that exist in this room cement lucrative and long-term commitments,” Fallin said.

A key example being a $44 million purchase of a 158-acre plot of land near Tinker for the KC-46 campus that was sealed in 2015. With groundbreaking taking place last July, the construction project is a little over half complete.

She said such a project would not be achievable without the partnerships of federal, state and local levels of government in addition to contractors, small and big business alike.

Historically, Tinker and the Primes is constructed according to Tinker Air Force Base defense, its defense needs and how it connects to the aerospace industry and Oklahoma as well as the entire nation.

Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, drew in the partners that allow for and contribute to Tinker’s success in delivering combat power for America.

“Fort Sill is a huge consumer of natural resources,” Levy said. “The Mike Monroney (Aeronautical) Center employs 7,000 people and hosts 130 buildings, all pertinent to training air traffic controllers around the world,” Levy said. “It’s all about how we defend the nation, and everyone has a hand in the mix. Today is an opportunity to expand the aperture and opportunities to get more stuff at a lower cost.”

Levy stressed the importance of the aging aircraft and its need for sustainability. October will be the 61st year of the KC-135 stratotanker, and though there is understandable excitement for the shiny, new aircraft the future brings, an obligation remains to take care of the old iron that will undoubtedly be in the inventory for decades more, he said.

The AFSC commander also discussed the need to remain competitive in the global market and aerospace defense, focusing primarily on upping the additive manufacturing game. Levy said the Air Force and Department of Defense cannot act too slowly or conservatively, with our adversaries hanging on our coattails.

Non-traditional thinking will allow the Air Force to iterate faster and design faster, Levy said, all while driving up the readiness and driving down the cost, ultimately maintaining that upper hand against any and all adversaries.

“The aerospace industry is thriving, but I want it to blossom like a wildflower,” Levy said. “Because when it’s continuing to blossom that way, I can drive down the cost of sustainment and I can drive up the readiness of our force. I can be more prepared for those fifth-generation adversaries.

“We have to protect our American way of life, but I can’t do any of that without you.”