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Propulsion Pitch Day looks to source vital engine parts

First flown more than 60 years ago, the TF33 engine continues to be a vital part of the Air Force’s mission as more than 1,000 engines continue to power the nation’s fleet of B-52 bombers, E-3 AWACS and other mission-critical aircraft.

Yet while the engine continues to remain an integral part of powering the Air Force, the parts that maintain the engine have become more difficult to procure in recent years as the Air Force’s traditional technology partners no longer produce the parts in question.

To solve this problem, Tinker Air Force Base’s Propulsion Directorate is hosting the installation’s first Propulsion Pitch Day on Feb. 7 to connect with nontraditional and small businesses who might be able to fill that gap.

“The Propulsion team is executing innovative solutions, like Propulsion Pitch Day, to help revitalize the TF33 propulsion industrial base and provide contracting opportunities faster than ever,” said Col. Benjamin Boehm, director of the Propulsion Directorate. “This effort encourages the grouping of parts families for interested offerors and allows them the opportunity to support the warfighter directly.”

While not the first pitch day within the Air Force, Propulsion Pitch Day will be the first event of its kind that Tinker has participated in since the inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in March 2019. The Air Force held its first Pitch Day last March in New York City as a new type of event in which small-budget investments are made in various startups in the hopes of speeding up military access to new technologies.

While previous pitch days have targeted innovations in national security related to air, space and cyberspace with a special emphasis on battlefield air operations technologies, digital technologies and command, control, communications, intelligence and network technologies for the future, Ricale Keith, Propulsion Directorate, said that Tinker’s Propulsion Pitch Day will focus on procuring mission-critical parts necessary to sustain airpower today and tomorrow.

“The concept of Pitch Days for the Air Force is novel and somewhat unfamiliar to some, but it can be an effective tool to help us engage with our small businesses,” Keith said.

An event that will be hosted at Tinker’s Industrial Park, the first Propulsion Pitch Day is looking to find proposals for 17 key parts. Participating businesses will have the opportunity to present their proposals on how they would manufacture the parts and, if chosen, would go on to sign contracts to produce prototypes of those parts on the same day.

If you missed this event, prepare for the next one as we plan to increase future Pitch Days, which the Propulsion Directorate said they intend to host twice a year.

“Typically the normal government sourcing development and contracting process takes months, the Pitch Day brings all those things together so that they line up and you can pull the trigger to make things happen much faster than they otherwise would with businesses who wouldn’t normally be defense contractors,” Boehm said.

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