Date of Award

Spring 2015

Access Restriction

Campus Access only research projects

Degree Name

Master of Science


Systems Engineering

School or College

Seaver College of Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Frederick Brown

Second Advisor

Arnold Galloway


"The F/ A-18E/F Super Hornet is a combat-proven strike fighter with built-in versatility. The Super Hornet's suite of integrated and networked systems provides enhanced interoperability, total force support for the combatant commander and for the troops on the ground." In the past 36 years, the program has manufactured a total of over 2000 planes.

Northrop Grumman is a subcontractor for the F/ A-18 program whose job is to manufacture the Aft/Center Fuselage and Aft Tailfins for the F/ A-18. A major problem area is in the production of the Aft Tailfins. The area has always struggled to meet cost, performance, and schedule objectives. The goal of this project is to remedy the production plan of the F/A-18 Aft Tailfin assembly using a systems engineering approach so that it is able to meet these objectives.

The aft tailfins are manufactured at Northrop Grumman's facility in El Segundo. It is the largest cost center within the Aft Fuselage and Tailfin Integrated Product Team {IPT), making up one third of the IPT. It takes ten technicians approximately 548 hours to complete one shipset of the tailfins, one left hand side and one right hand side unit. There are thirteen positions in the assembly which must all be completed sequentially. Due to the nature of the build, there is no opportunity to complete work in parallel. The VADs, Vertical Automated Drilling, and the Upper positions currently face the most problems in the production of the aft tailfins.

This paper evaluates trade study options to improve the production plan. There are several aspects to consider when developing these trade studies. Requirements are the most important part. This paper focuses on thirteen requirements and provides a detailed verification and validation process for each. It also looks at several risks involved with the production and specifies management strategies to mitigate each risk. Past data is reviewed to demonstrate the assembly's performance capabilities as well as to provide lessons learned.

The four trade study options are as follows:

  1. Option 1-Status Quo
  2. Option 2 - Expand Flow for the VADs and Upper
  3. Option 3 - Insert Cushion Behind VADs
  4. Option 4 - Maintain Status Quo Flow, Add 2nd Shift, Redistribute Resources

After analyzing all the options, it is determined that Option 4 would be the best solution for the program. This option would allow for the most successful and consistent meeting of the cost, schedule, and efficiency objective. This recommendation was presented to the NGC management team. They agreed with it and are now implementing a 2nd shift for the aft tailfin assembly.

BrittanyHenry_Systems_Presentation_2015.pdf (15011 kB)
Oral Presentation